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QIMR Berghofer researcher awarded prestigious Metcalf Prize

QIMR Berghofer’s Associate Professor James Hudson has been awarded the prestigious Metcalf Prize for Stem Cell Research for his work to develop new heart regeneration drugs.

The Metcalf Prize, which is worth $50,000, recognises exceptional scientists who are conducting excellent stem cell research.

Associate Professor Hudson is the head of the Organoid Research Laboratory at QIMR Berghofer.

He will use the prize money to further his research into how metabolic changes alter the biology of heart cells.

“The Metcalf Prize is judged by some of the best stem cell researchers in the world, so to win this is an honour and recognises the significant work being done here at QIMR Berghofer,” Associate Professor Hudson said.

Associate Professor Hudson led a team that conducted the world’s first screening of potential heart regeneration drugs using bioengineered human heart muscles.

“I work with a talented team of researchers at QIMR Berghofer who are committed to making a difference when it comes to finding a cure for heart failure.”

“Our team can make hundreds of heart muscles in the lab each week that beat and behave like a human heart,” Associate Professor Hudson said.

“These mini heart muscles seem to respond to drugs in a similar way to the organ, so we are using them to discover treatments that may be beneficial for patients with heart failure.”

In Australia, more than 300,000 people suffer from heart failure. Half of these patients will die within five years of diagnosis. Around $1 billion is spent treating the condition each year.

Associate Professor Hudson and his group have also bioengineered miniature skeletal muscles, which are helping the researchers to develop new drugs for muscular dystrophy and muscle degeneration. It is believed to be one of the most accurate scientific models of human skeletal muscle to be developed.

QIMR Berghofer’s Director and CEO, Professor Frank Gannon commended Associate Professor Hudson on the award.

“James and his team are using their miniature heart models to screen potential new drugs, and this research could transform the treatment of heart failure in thousands of Australians,” Professor Gannon said.

“Just this year his team published a four-year study in the journal Cell Stem Cell, which identified two drugs that could help regenerate damaged heart tissue without negative side effects on heart function.”