You can learn a lot about hearts by trying to build one from scratch. A pair of scientists have grown ‘beating’ human heart muscle tissue from stem cells and are exploring cardiac regeneration.
Developmental biologist Associate Professor Enzo Porrello became interested in how newborn mammal hearts can regenerate while working in Dallas, Texas at one of the leading labs researching heart development.
With the help of a revolutionary robot, Professor David Adams and Associate Professor Mirella Dottori are studying neurons, testing drug candidates for chronic pain, and working towards precise, personalised neurological treatment.
David has been studying the neurology of chronic pain, while Mirella is a neural stem cell expert. Based at the University of Wollongong, their collaboration focusses on cells called dorsal root ganglia sensory neurons. These cells sense pressure, temperature, position, touch and pain, and the duo believe they could hold the key to many neurological disorders including chronic pain.
“Many diseases and disorders are caused by altered firing of signals along sensory nerves. Growing human sensory neurons [from stem cells] means we can study their development and function in both health and disease,” says Mirella. Continue reading Modelling brain circuitry→
Examining how individual heart cells develop is revealing how the cells make decisions to form a working heart.
Once an adult heart is damaged, it has no ability to heal itself. Dr Nathan Palpant at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland and Associate Professor Joseph Powell at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the University of New South Wales are trying to understand how that might be changed by tracking individual stem cells along their journey to becoming heart cells.
The eye’s cornea depends on stem cells to help maintain transparency. If disease or trauma deplete stem cell reservoirs, a rapid and painful loss of vision soon follows.
Professor Stephanie Watson and Professor Nick Di Girolamo have used stem cells to repair their patients’ vision. It’s the culmination of a 15-year collaboration to restore sight in Australians with corneal disease.
Stephanie is an international leader in research and innovation with the University of Sydney and is also a practising corneal surgeon. She met Nick as an early career scientist through a research group at the University of New South Wales and they discovered their shared interest. Nick is now a Director with the School of Medical Sciences at UNSW. Continue reading Clearing corneas and restoring vision→
Since its creation in 2011, the Stem Cells Australia initiative has increased our understanding of how to control and use stem cells in research. Our members have placed Australia at the forefront of stem cell medicine, and now we are developing new diagnostic, therapeutic and biological applications that will transform healthcare in the years and decades ahead.
Our researchers are learning about how the heart forms so they can identify drugs to stimulate heart repair and improve function; they are analysing big data to predict how cells behave and create custom immune cells; they are helping patients with damaged corneas see again using grafts made from their own stem cells; and much more.
Stem cells are being used to rapidly test and improve treatments for cataracts, thanks to an innovative solution developed by Dr Michael O’Connor and his team from Western Sydney University.
With novel stem cell technology, Michael has created hundreds of thousands of micro-lenses similar to the ones in the human eye. These micro-lenses offer a way to rapidly improve drug research and offer the potential for lens cell transplants in the future.
For the past decade scientists have been able to reprogram skin cells, nasal cells and other mature cells to become pluripotent stem cells that can turn into any cell type in the human body. How it works is only starting to become clear.
Teams led by Professors Ryan Lister at the University of Western Australia, Jose Polo at Monash University and Ernst Wolvetang at The University of Queensland are working together to understand how this process occurs, whether all cell types follow the same path to becoming pluripotent cells, and if this impacts their ability to mimic disease in the laboratory.
Professor James Bourne and his team are laying the groundwork for using stem cell transplants to treat brain trauma with the discovery of an anti-scarring agent and new biomaterials to support transplanted cells.
“What we’re doing is a prelude to direct stem cell research. We hope to give potential stem cell therapies for brain trauma the best chance of success,” James says.
He and his team at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute at Monash University are studying nonhuman primates to understand how to create the best environments for repair after brain injury. Continue reading Building tools for brain repair→
Dr Elaine Saunders has made premium hearing aids more affordable and easier to use. She and her team have built on Australia’s bionic ear technologies to create a system where you can: test your hearing online; buy your hearing aid online and receive it set up ready for you; and adjust the hearing aid with your smartphone while you’re at the pub, dancing, or watching TV.
Making higher quality carbon fibre will be easier thanks to infrared analysis being used at the Australian Synchrotron.
The tough fibre, which is 10 times stronger and five times lighter than steel, is made by heating a synthetic product called polyacrylonitrile (PAN) in temperatures up to 600°C.
Some aircraft, high performance cars and the new electric BMW i3 are partly made with it. But slow and costly manufacturing methods currently deter the mass use of carbon fibre in automotive and aeronautical industries.