FEIT Research Project Database

Mitochondria form and function in the diabetic heart

Project Leader: Vijayaraghavan Rajagopal
Collaborators: Edmund Crampin Eric Hanssen (Bio21 Institute), Sean Lal (Sydney Heart Bank), Anthony Hickey (University of Auckland), Kenneth Tran (Auckland Bioengineering Institute)
Primary Contact: Vijayaraghavan Rajagopal (vijay.rajagopal@unimelb.edu.au)
Keywords: biomedical engineering; systems biology
Disciplines: Biomedical Engineering

Type 2 diabetes incidence is at epidemic levels, affecting more than 1.5 million Australians. There is a near three-fold increased risk of heart failure in people with diabetes, with heart failure being the leading cause of mortality. Mitochondria, within cardiomyocytes, release ~90% of the energy (in the form of adenosine triphosphate, ATP) necessary for cardiomyocyte metabolic function. Myocardial metabolism is altered in diabetes, and this likely leads to cardiomyocyte dysfunction that underpins diabetic cardiomyopathy. Therefore, mitochondrial form and function are increasingly seen as an attractive target for therapeutic treatments for diabetic cardiomyopathy. However, there are fundamental gaps in our understanding of the interplay between mitochondrial form and function that must be addressed in order to develop effective therapies.

The aim of this project is to create state-of-the-art 3D computer simulation models of mitochondria form, organisation and energetics in cardiac cells from healthy and diabetic hearts. These models will be created using new computational methods and novel experimental techniques that probe mitochondria form and energy production. These models will be used to determine possible therapeutic strategies to treat people affected by diabetes induced heart disease.

We are seeking highly motivated PhD students with a Bachelors or Masters degree in Applied Mathematics, Biomedical Engineering, Computer Science and related fields to lead this project. Successful candidates will conduct highly interdisciplinary research and will be collaborating with leading specialists in computational biology, mitochondrial physiology and cardiology.