Queensland researchers will make 80,000 mini model muscles to better understand the human heart. Image by PR HANDOUT IMAGE PHOTO

Health

Mini model muscles to help heart research

2020-06-26 11:16:46

Queensland researchers will make tens of thousands of mini model muscles to create a world-first comprehensive encyclopedia of the human heart.

The research will help scientists understand the heart so they can better address problems, says Associate Professor James Hudson of QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

“At the moment we still only understand a fraction of the biology underpinning how the heart works so it’s very difficult to figure out exactly what’s going wrong,” he said.

“And if you don’t know what’s going wrong, you can’t fix it.”

Researchers will make 80,000 miniature heart tissues, or muscles, known as organoids.

Using the models, they will knock out the 8500 genes that control heart cells one at a time to see the response.

“We will then catalogue how each gene controls the biology and function of heart muscle, creating an ‘encyclopedia’,” Prof Hudson said.

“If we’re successful, this could be the most comprehensive database of the heart ever developed.”

The information will be used to build a working biological model of a heart muscle in a computer.

This will enable researchers to make predictions in a computer about what’s going wrong and how to fix it, before starting costly and time-consuming laboratory experiments.

“Our vision is that in future, we will be able to plug in a patient’s transcriptome – information that tells us about a person’s genes and environment – quickly compute what is wrong with the heart, and predict with precision what treatment they should receive,” Prof Hudson said.

It’s the first time the approach has been used for any organ, but Prof Hudson hopes it can later be applied to other organs.

He says innovative new approaches to cardiovascular disease are needed as the development of heart drugs has stalled worldwide.

More than a quarter of all deaths in Australia are due to cardiovascular disease.