CardioRegen

Image not availableCardioRegen

The Melbourne Children’s Centre for Cardiovascular Genomics and Regenerative Medicine (CardioRegen) is an integrated clinical and research program across the Melbourne Children’s Campus and Parkville Precinct. Our vision is to transform the clinical care of patients with childhood heart disease by bringing together researchers across the translational continuum from discovery science to the clinic. CardioRegen encompasses three major research programs in Diagnostics, Discovery and Translation, which are broadly focused on understanding the genetic causes of childhood heart disease and developing novel regenerative therapies for children with heart failure.

 

Childhood Heart Disease and Heart Failure

Heart disease is the leading cause of death and disability in children, affecting up to 1 in 100 live births. Complex forms of childhood heart disease (CHD) often require multiple surgical interventions during early childhood and adolescence. Surgical advances over the past 20 years have dramatically increased survival rates, with more than 85% of children living into adulthood. As a result, CHD is now considered a life-long disease and guidelines and registries have been developed to facilitate the continuum of life-long care. An emerging and alarming trend, however, is the sharp rise in the number of children with CHD hospitalised due to heart failure, a condition that can only be resolved by heart transplantation. There is a growing gap between the number of donors and the number of children with heart failure in need of transplantation. As a result, there are increasing numbers of children on mechanical assist support requiring heart transplantation. The cost of treating childhood failure is growing, with the annual total inpatient cost for heart failure in Australian paediatric hospitals estimated to be $120 million. Current treatment options are clearly inadequate and new approaches to radically change patient trajectories are needed.

Our Vision

CardioRegen will coalesce clinicians and researchers across the Melbourne Children’s Campus and Parkville Precinct to transform the clinical care of patients with CHD. Whilst mainstream cardiology and cardiac surgery focus their efforts on disease management, there is little emphasis placed on underlying aetiologies and novel treatments. Recent advances in genomics and stem cell technologies have the potential to revolutionise clinical care for CHD patients via novel regenerative approaches to repair and replace damaged heart tissue, thus offering a potential curative approach to heart failure.  

Our Research

The Melbourne Children’s Heart Tissue Bank

With over 700 children undergoing cardiac surgery at RCH each year, including the National Heart Transplantation Program, our campus has access to one of the largest CHD cohorts worldwide. The Melbourne Children’s Heart Tissue Bank is a world-class resource for researchers studying childhood heart disease. Our bank includes an incredibly valuable collection of samples that have been preserved with the utmost care and dignity for future clinical and ethically approved research projects. The ultimate aim is to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of childhood heart disease.

Genomics

The genetic causes of complex forms of childhood heart disease are poorly understood. Understanding the genetic causes of CHD is critical for disease diagnosis, genetic counselling, family planning, disease management and the development of novel therapeutics. Our researchers have identified novel genetic variants that cause cardiomyopathy in children and have developed a genetic test to predict low-grade transplant rejection in heart failure patients. Current efforts are focused on understanding the genetic causes of the most severe (and complex) forms of CHD including aortic arch abnormalities and Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.

Stem Cells

We have developed a method whereby patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) can be differentiated in vitro to form heart muscle cells. Using genome editing approaches such as CRISPR/Cas9, we can rapidly and efficiently generate iPSC models carrying the exact variant of interest in our patients. Heart muscle cells derived from iPSCs can then be used to facilitate disease modelling and drug screening. Current efforts are focused on the identification of pathways that could be targeted to facilitate endogenous regeneration of the heart in children with heart disease, as well as novel bioengineering strategies to repair the failing heart.

Our People

Co-Directors

A/Prof Enzo Porrello
Group Leader and Prinicpal Research Fellow
Cardiac Regeneration
Murdoch Children's Research Institute

Prof Igor Konstantinov
Cardiac Surgeon
Royal Children's Hospital
Honorary Fellow
Heart Research
Murdoch Children's Research Institute

Investigative Team

Prof Yves D'Udekem
Cardiac Surgeon
Royal Children's Hospital
Senior Research Fellow
Heart Research
Murdoch Children's Research Institute

Dr David Elliott
Team Leader
Cardiac Regeneration
Murdoch Children's Research Institute

Dr Michael Cheung
Director of Cardiology
Royal Children's Hospital
Group Leader
Heart Research
Murdoch Children's Research Institute

A/Prof Christian Brizard
Cardiac Surgeon
Royal Children's Hospital
Honorary Fellow
Heart Research
Murdoch Children's Research Institute

A/Prof Kim Dalziel
Academic
Melbourne School of Population and Global Health
University of Melbourne
Honorary Fellow
Health Services
Murdoch Children's Research Institute

A/Prof Robert Weintraub
Senior Cardiologist
Head of Transplant and Pulmonary Hypertension Service 
Royal Children's Hospital

Dr Li Huang
Academic
Melbourne School of Population and Global Health
University of Melbourne
Research Associate
Health Services
Murdoch Children's Research Institute

Prof Stephen Harrap
Academic
Physiology
University of Melbourne

Prof Lea Delbridge
Academic
Physiology
University of Melbourne