Stay in touch

Making masses of mini-hearts: Melbourne cardiac development researcher Enzo Porrello

Associate Professor Enzo Porrello from Murdoch Children’s Research Institute won a 2018 Metcalf Prize for his work exploring newborn heart development to develop heart attack drugs and engineer ‘artificial hearts’ from patient stem cells.

He was delighted to see his regular collaborator and friend Associate Professor James Hudson win a Metcalf in 2019. We sat down with him for a chat.

Enzo speaking at a Stem Cells Australia public forum at the State Library of Victoria


What have you been up to since you won a Metcalf Prize?

“It has been an incredibly busy year since I won the Metcalf Prize in 2018. A major highlight for my team was our publication in Cell Stem Cell, which described the first ever large-scale drug screen in human stem cell-derived cardiac organoids. This work led to the identification of several drugs that can promote regeneration of human heart muscle cells, which may have therapeutic potential for patients with heart failure.

“This publication was the culmination of several years of work and resulted from a collaboration with Astra Zeneca that started in 2014, so it was a real highlight to finally publish this work in the world’s top-ranked stem cell journal.”

What are you working on now?

“I lead the Cardiac Regeneration Group at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and co-direct the Melbourne Children’s Centre for Cardiovascular Genomics and Regenerative Medicine (CardioRegen). The overall aim of our research program is to develop regenerative therapies for children and adults with heart failure.

“Our major projects currently focus on the development of novel approaches to stimulate heart muscle regeneration in children with heart failure, which we are modelling using patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells.

“I also lead a multi-disciplinary national team that is working towards the development of bioengineered patches of heart tissue for the surgical correction of heart defects in children with some of the most severe forms of heart disease.”

Looking back, what has winning the Metcalf Prize meant for your career and/or your research work?

“The Metcalf Prize has provided me with some wonderful opportunities to engage with the stem cell community more broadly and to share my research findings with the public.

“Since winning, I have participated in a number of public engagement events. Most notably, I was a panel member for a public forum ‘At the Frontier of Tomorrow’s Medicine’ held at the State Library of Victoria, which provided a fantastic opportunity to showcase my stem cell research and to discuss a range of topics related to the science and ethics of stem cell medicine with the wider community.”

What are you hoping for in the next stage of your career?

“The next stage of my career will be focussed on pushing our exciting discoveries from the laboratory bench into the clinic. This is an extremely challenging task, but I believe we have the team and skills to do it, so we will push forward with this endeavour over the coming years.”