Health and Medicine

Stem cells healing broken hearts

Dr James Chong has won the 2016 Metcalf Prize for advancing stem cell science in cardiac medicine.

Stem cell therapies will soon become a viable way to repair damaged hearts.

A cardiologist and senior lecturer at the University of Sydney’s Westmead Clinical School, Dr Chong believes Australia will soon see clinical trials using stem cell therapies to regenerate heart tissues damaged by heart attacks.

“I think it’s quite promising,” says Chong, who leads Westmead Institute’s Cardiac Regeneration Group.

“We are poised to see a new wave in cellular therapies using stem cells. In the not-too-distant future, these therapies will become a viable treatment option to repair damaged heart muscle.”

He is currently exploring two lines of stem cell research in a bid to repair damaged hearts.

In animal trials, he has shown human stem cells can generate new heart muscle cells in the hearts of rats and mice damaged by a heart attack.

He has also discovered a unique set of stem cells residing in the heart that can be reprogrammed to repair damaged heart muscle.

Heart attacks and chronic heart failure often kill and damage heart muscle and people who survive these events often need a heart transplant to regain health and live a normal healthy life.

“In Australia, 54,000 people suffer a heart attack and 20,000 die from chronic heart failure each year,” says Chong, who will use his $50,000 Metcalf Prize to further advance his research.

“I want to develop stem cell treatments that can save the lives of the thousands of people who miss out on heart transplants.”

The Metcalf prize is awarded by The National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia.

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