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08 August 2018

Institute news

Alex PintoWe’re delighted to announce the key appointment of cardiovascular researcher, Dr Alex Pinto, who returns to Melbourne from the United States.

Dr Pinto, who is establishing a new laboratory to identify novel genetic and cellular drivers of cardiac disease and ageing, most recently led a research group at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine.

In addition to his role at the Institute, Dr Pinto has a joint appointment with La Trobe University’s Centre for Cardiovascular Biology and Disease Research, and holds an affiliate position at the Jackson Laboratory — where he will maintain a funded research program — until the end of 2019.

Dr Pinto heads the Institute’s new Cardiac Cellular Systems laboratory, which aims to determine if pathological changes in cardiac cell networks contribute to heart failure; and whether manipulating the cell network can influence cardiac remodeling to prevent and treat subsequent cardiac disease.

Until recently the cellular composition of the heart was poorly defined. Using advanced genetic, flow cytometric and single cell transcriptomic approaches, Alex and colleagues have shed new light on the cellular constituents of the heart by demonstrating that the heart is comprised of a complex and diverse ecosystem of non-myocytes. Based on these discoveries, new avenues of cardiovascular disease research involving the targeting and manipulation of specific cell types and networks are now possible. Today, virtually nothing is known about how the ecosystem of non-myocytes in the heart operate as a cell network, paving the way for novel exploration by this team.

Key areas of ongoing research will include determining the plasticity and elasticity of cardiac cell networks in the context of physiological stressors such as obesity and hypertension; determining the molecular and cellular drivers of these processes; and development of unique genetic, computational biology, and imaging approaches to study diverse cell populations in the heart.

Dr Pinto’s appointment forms part of the Institute’s Strategic Plan to appoint world-class research leaders in areas of significant disease burden and great clinical need — such as heart failure — and which will further strengthen the Institute’s existing centres of research excellence.

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