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Student research project

Supervisor(s): Dr Rebecca Harper and Dr Alexander Pinto

This project will optimise lipid nanoparticle (LNP) chemistry to assess if mRNA-LNPs are able to alter cardiac cell phenotypes.

Project summary

Across Australia, one person every nine minutes is admitted to hospital suffering a heart attack. This not only creates significant financial burden but is a major cause of ongoing disease morbidity and death due to ensuing heart failure. This commonly occurs after a heart attack, due to massive loss of muscle cells (cardiomyocytes)—which are replaced by a fibrous scar known as ‘replacement fibrosis’ — and loss of heart functional capacity. Current therapies for heart failure provide symptomatic relief, but they will never fully succeed without treating the underlying scar and cellular changes in the heart following a heart attack. We need to turn to novel therapies to address the quality and quantity of the scar tissue caused by a heart attack.

Hypothesis: Scar tissue that forms after heart attack can be altered using mRNA-loaded lipid nanoparticles (mRNA-LNPs).

This project would use mRNA-LNPs to alter scar tissue after a heart attack. Specifically, the study will answer the questions:

  1. Can we deliver mRNA to infarcts using LNPs to the scar tissue within the heart attack infarct regions?
  2. Can these changes persist in the infarct regions?

Related methods, skills or technologies

The project is suitable for an Masters, Honours or PhD student and will involve applying various skills and techniques, including:

  • animal models
  • bioinformatics
  • cell culture
  • data analysis
  • flowcytometry
  • imaging
  • immunocytochemistry
  • molecular biology.

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