MSE Research Project Database

Synthetic biology to engineer cells for optimal energy supply

Project Leader: Vijayaraghavan Rajagopal
Collaborators: Max Lim (O'Brien Institute)
Primary Contact: Vijay Rajagopal (
Keywords: biocellular systems engineering; biomechanics; heart; systems biology
Disciplines: Biomedical Engineering,Mechanical Engineering
Domains: Convergence of engineering and IT with the life sciences
Research Centre: Systems Biology Laboratory

This program develops experimental and computational approaches that apply engineering design and analysis principles to study existing biological cellular systems and to create new cellular systems with user-defined properties and functions.

Cardiac ischemia is caused by reduced blood supply to affected tissues in the heart.  A common symptom of severe ischemic heart disease is chest pain which may travel to the jaw, shoulder, arm or back. These same cardiac tissues can also undergo further damage when blood supply is restored, which is termed reperfusion injury. It has recently been noted that mitochondria, which supply energy for each heartbeat and are highly connected in normal conditions, exhibit defragmentation in ischemic conditions. Interestingly, this has also been observed in other disease states such as diabetic cardiomyopathy. Furthermore, our collaborators at the O’Brien Institute Cardiac Regeneration Group have developed methods that can modulate mitochondrial connectivity.

The aim of this project is to work with our collaborators to develop experimental and computational models of stem cell-derived cardiac cells under normal and ischemic conditions to investigate whether modulation of mitochondrial connectivity directly affects cell function and can repair cardiac tissue damaged by ischemic reperfusion injury.

A cardiac cell cross-section depicting myofibrils and mitochondria in adult myocytes under normal conditions