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August 2022

Ask your questions about heart regeneration; growing mini livers to help sick kids; and $55K in Prizes closing soon.

Research is underway to explore a range of ways in which stem cells may one day treat or mend a broken heart – one of the least regenerative of all our organs.

We’re bringing together three research leaders for our webinar Future Medicine: Healing the Heart, where we’ll discuss repairing hearts after heart attack, drug discovery for COVID 19-related heart damage, and how we might boost the heart’s pumping power for kids with congenital heart disease.

This is a free public webinar for a general audience, so start preparing your burning heart-related questions for our panel of researchers and clinicians. Read more below.

Brisbane scientist Sarah Withey is using mini livers or ‘organoids’ to trial a promising treatment to repair livers in sick kids with a rare disease. We’re supporting her research. Read more below.

And there’s still a small window of time to apply for the Metcalf Prizes for Stem Cell Research, which closes 5 August. Please encourage any promising researchers you know to apply. Read more below.

Kind regards,

Dr Graeme L Blackman AO

Chairman, National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia

In this bulletin:

Webinar: Future Medicine: Healing the Heart

Hear from a cardiologist and stem cell researchers, and ask your own questions

Heart disease is Australia’s leading cause of death, killing more than 18,500 people a year, one every 28 minutes.

The National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia presents a public webinar to answer your questions about heart disease and to let you know about the latest developments in stem cell research to heal broken hearts.

It will be hosted by Foundation director and stem cell biologist Professor Megan Munsie as the first in our Future Medicine series of community education events.

You’ll hear from our panel of researchers and clinicians working on:

  • repairing damage from heart disease and heart attack by growing new tissues: Associate Professor James Chong, a regenerative medicine researcher at Westmead Institute for Medical Research and The University of Sydney, and cardiologist at Westmead Hospital.
  • understanding congenital heart diseases and developing tissues to supplement pumping power: Professor Enzo Porrello, a stem cell scientist at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.
  • finding drug candidates for COVID 19-related heart damage: Professor James Hudson, a bioengineer at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

More than 4 million Australians live with cardiovascular disease. While some treatments and lifestyle changes may help manage their condition, long-term treatments or even cures remain out of reach.

Researchers are currently exploring how stem cell treatments provide answers at all stages of life: from addressing congenital heart diseases in infants, to finding treatments for preventing heart damage, and repairing heart tissues after heart attack.

More about the speakers:

Date and time:

Thursday 25 August 2022

7:30PM – 8:30PM Australian Eastern Standard Time

Register to get the event link at:

Growing ‘mini livers’ to restore function in kids with rare disease

Developmental biologist Dr Sarah Withey is using mini liver ‘organoids’ made from patients’ stem cells to test a potential treatment for children with a rare, genetic, progressive, life-limiting disease – Ataxia Telangiectasia (A-T).

The inherited disease usually causes loss of control of movement, increased susceptibility to a range of cancers, respiratory complications, and fatty liver disease, where the liver is unable to process lipids, including fats.

“Liver disease is otherwise rare in children,” says Sarah, a researcher at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at the University of Queensland.

“It’s a serious condition that can further limit the life of these kids, who are already dealing with the range of other complications of A-T.”

To investigate the mechanisms of the disease in the liver, Sarah has generated the first patient stem cell-derived liver organoids that exhibit the fatty liver disease associated with A-T.

“By looking at these liver organoids grown from A-T patients’ stem cells, we’ve noticed that an enzyme, which is key to fat metabolism, is in the wrong location in the cells. This means the liver cells can’t process fats properly, causing a build-up characteristic of fatty liver disease.”

Sarah’s research is trialling the introduction of a synthetic, gene-edited enzyme into the cells. Hopefully, this will put the enzyme back where it belongs in the organoid cells to restore fat metabolism.

“We’re going to trial a drug candidate that’s shown promise in other species and other human cell types,” she says. “So, I think there’s a good chance that it will work on these liver cells.”

As part of the Matched Funding Program, the Foundation matches, dollar-for-dollar, donations made by other supporters to provide a total of $100,000.

The Foundation will match the generous gift of $50,000 already pledged from A-T patient support group BrAshA-T to support Sarah’s trial.

“Being selected for the matched funding program is humbling because it shows that the Foundation also cares about this disease and our work. This is especially important for rare diseases such as A-T, which often lack research and funding investment.

“I’d also like to thank the Foundation for supporting this research and giving an early-career researcher an opportunity that might otherwise be afforded to a more senior researcher. This early-career support is a real foot in the door.”

Read the full story on the Foundation’s website.

Do you know a rising star in stem cell research?

Metcalf Prizes for Stem Cell Research closing 5 August

If you know a promising stem cell researcher, encourage them to apply for the 2022 Metcalf Prizes for Stem Cell Research. The Prizes are open to mid-career researchers working in stem cell research in Australia. They could be working in medicine or agriculture, government or academia, as long as they have a primary focus on stem cells.

Applications are open to those who have completed their PhD or MD (research-based) within the past five to 10 years (from August 2012 to August 2017). Allowances will be made for research-career breaks, such as maternity leave.

The winners will be chosen for their scientific excellence, proven leadership ability, and the potential to have a continuing influence on stem cell research in Australia.

You can read about the Metcalf Prize alumni and their research on our website.

The Metcalf Prizes for Stem Cell Research recognise and honour the exceptional contribution made to stem cell research by the late Professor Donald Metcalf. Over his 50-year career, Don helped transform cancer treatment and transplantation medicine, and paved the way for potential stem cell therapy in the treatment of many other conditions.

The Metcalf Prizes support the Foundation’s mission to support researchers whose work improves our understanding of the human body and the diseases that affect it and leads to proven stem cell therapies.

We encourage last year’s unsuccessful applicants to apply again this year if they are still eligible.

To apply online, and for a full list of criteria and conditions, head to the Foundation’s website:

If you have any questions about eligibility or the application process, please contact Tanya Ha at Science in Public, who is administering the awards for the Foundation: [email protected]

Stem cell news from around the world

Between newsletters, we share stem cell news on social media:

Here are a few stories we’ve shared recently:

Technology Networks: Time-lapse footage shows neural stem cells grow in 3D scaffolds Paper.

Medical Xpress: Stem cells and AI team up to predict cardiac arrhythmias in patients. Paper.

Forbes: Research On Flies Provides Hope For Brain Repair. Paper.

Sci Tech Daily: A newly discovered type of stem cell could allow scientists to make organs in a dish. Paper.

News Medical: Study focuses on how telomerase activity affects the regenerative potential of stem cells in human urine. Paper.

News Medical: Complex molecular dance could inform the development of future treatments for fragile X syndrome. Paper.

Phys Org: A newly identified stem cell regulator enables lifelong sperm production. Paper.

GEN News: Neuron regeneration following brain injury activated by neuron and glia connection. Paper.

Cambridge Network: Researchers find epigenetic switch that helps keep early embryo cells on the right track. Paper.


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