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Dr Jelena Rnjak Kovacina

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Dr Jelena Rnjak Kovacina

Bioengineered vascularised cardiac patches

Dr Jelena Rnjak Kovacina, University of New South Wales

2017 Future Leader Fellowship

Years funded: 2018-2023

Heart attack or myocardial infarction is a life-threatening event that affects on average 25 Australians each day. There are currently no effective treatments to repair the damage to the heart tissue caused by a heart attack, meaning this event often leads to complete heart failure.

Cardiac patches are living tissues developed in the laboratory by growing human cells on biomaterials or materials designed to interact with the human body. These patches can perform a range of functions that are done by a ‘real’ organ, but their use is currently limited by the lack of a vascular (blood) supply.

In the human body, cell survival across very thick layers of tissue is maintained via an extensive network of blood vessels, which deliver oxygen and nutrients to every cell in the body and take away harmful waste products, but this is yet to be effectively replicated in the laboratory.

In this project, Dr Jelena Rnjak-Kovacina, a biomedical engineer at UNSW is collaborating with an interventional cardiologist and a stem cell expert A/Prof James Chong at Westmead Institute for Medical Research to develop the next generation of cardiac patches. They will develop novel biomaterials that support vascular regeneration and therefore extend the utility of cardiac patches for the treatment of heart damage following myocardial infarction.

Last updated12 July 2021