Macleay Press Conference - Beating Heart Cells

Scientists Grow Billions of Heart Cells

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute Scientists triple the number of heart cells they can grow outside of the body

6 January 2016

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.

old vs new method of growing heart cells

Scientists around the world will now be able to spend less time producing heart cells 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 Cardiac Research Institute 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.

After 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 30 per cent of the dish. Now, we can get beating heart cells in around 90 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.

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

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.

Alexi Bosman holding a tray of tube samples

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 injured 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, with consistent results.

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Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present.

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute - The Home of Heart Research for 30 Years