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My name is Nicola. I was only 38 when I had a heart attack and my beautiful boys, Daniel and Jamie, were just 6 and 4.

I have always been fit, healthy and positive about life. I have never smoked, and a glass of wine was a treat. I certainly wasn’t the “type” to be at risk of a heart attack. But I was. And it changed my life.

I’ve been searching for answers but there are still so many unknowns. 

However, there’s hope – such as the innovative work of Dr Jelena Rnjak-Kovacina, whose research could lead to repairing damaged hearts like mine.

That’s why I'm supporting the Heart Foundation and I am very much hoping you will do the same. Will you kindly give today?

Read more about Jelena’s research below, and please donate.

My name is Dr Jelena Rnjak-Kovacina, and I am a biological engineer. I am fascinated by how we can now grow artificial tissue in the laboratory to perform a range of functions that are normally done by a living organ in the body.

We know that heart disease is the single leading cause of death in Australia. Yet, despite all the wonderful advances in medicine, right now there are no effective treatments for damaged heart tissue caused by a heart attack.

A heart attack can result in the heart muscle being permanently damaged, leaving it weakened, and unable to pump as much blood as usual.

The goal of my research is to improve cardiac patches by populating silk materials with isolated cells and investigating strategies that promote rapid and robust blood vessel formation.

Dr Jelena Rnjak-Kovacina

There are two major parts to my research:

  • The first is finding the best way to promote vascularisation (the development of capillaries) using silk as a scaffolding material to build the tissue around;
  • The second is to determine the cells most suitable for the job, with stem cells being the leading contender.

Our vision is a future in which we can offer novel treatment options for patients suffering from cardiovascular disease by growing replacement tissues in the laboratory. It’s obviously quite a challenge, but I am working with a talented, multidisciplinary team to meet it.

It is fantastic to have funding from the Heart Foundation, and support from donors like you, for this vital work that could save countless lives in the future.

Improved cardiac patches will help thousands of people like Nicola, who have suffered a heart attack, recover faster and stronger. 

- Dr Jelena Rnjak-Kovacina 

Thank you,

Dr Jelena Rnjak-Kovacina 
Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellow 
Senior Lecturer, Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering 
UNSW Sydney (University of New South Wales.