How will we heal damaged hearts in the future?

National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia

Media release: Monday 22 August 2022

Online public event to share the latest science and answer patient questions: Thursday 25 August

Scientists available for interviews. Contact Tanya Ha, 0404 083 863,

  • Could we boost a failing heart with ‘muscle patches’?
  • Could a stem cell injection help heart tissue regenerate?
  • Can mini hearts in a petri dish solve the mystery of 2,400 babies born with heart disease?
  • And can they explain what COVID is doing to our hearts?
  • Heart disease kills more than 18,500 Australians a year but that’s going to change. Not tomorrow, but in the coming decades.

Two of Australia’s leading stem cell researchers are available for interview to discuss their vision for healing broken hearts.

They’re part of the panel presenting at a national online event Future Medicine: Healing the Heart held by the health charity the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia to provide people with access to experts and reliable information.

They’re not promising that these treatments are just around the corner. In fact, they’ll warn against the hype of unproven treatments offered in Australia and by ‘stem cell tourism’ operators overseas.

But they are promising that change is on its way. Investment in Australian stem cell research is going transform heart repair.

Heart disease is Australia’s leading cause of death, killing more than 18,500 people a year, one every 28 minutes.

Associate Professor James Chong wants to change those numbers. He is a researcher at the Westmead Institute of Medical Research and University of Sydney, and a cardiologist at Westmead Hospital.

James says that future heart attack patients could be treated with injections of stem cell-derived heart muscle cells or ‘cardiomyocytes’ directly into the injured region.

“The patients I see affect my thinking every day,” he says. “What I’m working towards is to be able to provide new treatments to extend the quality and length of their lives.”

“When I was in medical school, we were taught that once heart cells are damaged, they can’t regenerate themselves,” James says.

The discovery of stem cell populations within the heart inspired James to pursue research as well as treat patients. He’s now working on stem cell treatments for heart attacks.

Professor Enzo Porrello and Professor James Hudson collaborated to create functional ‘beating’ human heart muscle from stem cells.

Enzo is a stem cell scientist at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute working to understand congenital heart diseases and James is a bioengineer at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute finding drug candidates for COVID 19-related heart damage.

“We’re now scaling up these tissues to grow bioengineered heart tissue patches that can be implanted onto the heart to provide supportive pumping power,” says Enzo. These patches are currently in preclinical animal trials.

This week, James, Enzo, and James will share their work and answer audience questions at a free online public forum this Thursday.

Stem cell biologist and Foundation director Professor Megan Munsie, from The University of Melbourne and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, will host the event.

“People need information to make informed choices about their healthcare,” says Megan. “This event is part of the Foundation’s mission to provide trustworthy science-based information for people living with diseases, and their loved ones.”

To that end, the Foundation has also developed a new guidebook – What you need to know about stem cell therapies – for people contemplating stem cell-based treatments or clinical trials.

For more information about the event and to download the handbook, people can visit

Megan Munsie and James Chong are available for interviews.

Media contacts: Tanya Ha, Science in Public, 0404 083 863,

About the webinar Future Medicine: Healing the Heart

Thursday 25 August 2022 at 7:30PM – 8:30PM (AEST)

Register to get the event link at:

About the patient information guidebook

The Foundation has developed a new guidebook – What you need to know about stem cell therapies – for people contemplating stem cell-based treatments or clinical trials.

This new guide includes:

  • a handy list of questions to ask about any stem cell treatments you’re considering
  • an overview of the conditions that are currently treated using approved stem cell therapies
  • information on how new therapies are developed and tested
  • risks of unproven or experimental treatments.

This resource has been developed with oversight from the Foundation’s expert Science and Ethics Committee.

More information:

About the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia

The NSCFA is an ATO-registered, tax-deductible health promotion charity dedicated to promoting the study and responsible use of stem cells to reduce the burden of disease.

The Foundation’s activities include:

  • supporting research that pursues cures for as-yet-untreatable diseases;
  • building a community of people with shared interest in stem cell science; and
  • providing the Australian public with objective, reliable information on both the potential and risks of stem cell medicine.

The Foundation is led by an expert volunteer Board, with a diversity of scientific, medical and governance experience. The Chairman is Dr Graeme Blackman, AO, FTSE, FAICD.

The Board consults with leading stem cell scientists before committing funds to research and education initiatives.

More at: