Scientists Grow Billions of Heart Cells


In a landmark breakthrough, scientists at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and the Royan Institute have discovered a faster, cheaper and more efficient way to grow billions of heart cells, which are vital to medical research and the treatment of heart disease.

Scientists around the world will now be able to spend less time and money producing heart cells in the laboratory, and more time finding cures for disease.

Previously, growing heart cells has been cumbersome, time consuming work with poor results. It was a problem Victor Chang scientist, Dr Alexis Bosman and PhD student Hananeh Fonoudi were determined to overcome.

“We grow and study heart cells to find out what causes different types of heart problems. I’ve worked to make heart cells for a long time and it’s always been such a struggle to do it efficiently,” Dr Bosman explained.
Dr Alexis BosmanAfter two years of intensive research Dr Bosman and her colleagues finally made a breakthrough by tinkering with the traditional recipe and method that was used to make heart cells.

“The old method used to take around one month to fill 20-30 per cent of the dish. Now, we can get beating heart cells in around 80 per cent of the dish, after just seven days. We’ve discovered how to produce billions of heart cells in a quarter of the time,” said Dr Bosman.

old v new

Not only that, the new technique is also expected to be far more cost effective, with as much as $20,000 saved per year, at the Victor Chang Institute alone.

The implications of this breakthrough will be threefold. First of all, scientists will be able to study the heart cells to understand how heart defects develop.

Secondly, pharmaceutical companies could soon be able to use these cells to test the effects of their drugs on the heart at a faster, more economical rate and on a significantly larger scale.

On top of that, scientists believe these cells could be used in regenerative medicine. This means they could be used to replace damaged heart cells that have been irreparably lost after a heart attack, which alarmingly affects one Australian every nine minutes.

“The discovery we’ve made has truly moved our research along a great amount. And the sooner we find out the causes of heart disease, the sooner we could have answers for patients and their families” added Dr Alexis Bosman.

The new technique has also been successfully tested in labs, not only here in Australia, but also in Iran at the prestigious Royan Institute, with consistent results.

Hananeh Fonoudi


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Updated: March 2014