FEIT Research Project Database

Electron microscopy visualisation of the developing heart at single-cell resolution

Project Leader: Vijayaraghavan Rajagopal
Student: Aidan Quinn
Collaborators: Eric Hanssen, Gonzalo del Monte Nieto
Sponsors: NHMRC
Primary Contact: Vijayaraghavan Rajagopal (vijay.rajagopal@unimelb.edu.au)
Keywords: artificial intelligence; biomedical engineering; cell development; cellular geometrics; heart
Disciplines: Biomedical Engineering

Non-compaction cardiomyopathy (NCC) is a congenital heart disease that is considered the third most diagnosed cardiomyopathy in adults. Current consensus points to the process of cardiac compaction and chamber formation during heart development as the origin of NCC. However, very little is known about NCC genetic determinants as most of the ones identified are like other cardiomyopathies. Thus, it is crucial to elucidate the cellular and tissue morphogenetic processes promoting the cardiac defects in the onset of NCC in order to design customised genetic screening panels and treatments for patients. 

We are seeking an outstanding PhD student interested in using cutting-edge microscopy techniques, serial block-face 3D electron microscopy and super-resolution microscopy, to study cardiac development. The successful candidate will:

-       develop tissue preparation protocols that optimise image acquisition and quality using electron microscopy and/or super resolution techniques.

-       process microscopy images into 3D computer models for visualisation and quantitative analysis of chamber formation with and without NCC.

-       collaborate with experts in AI, bioinformatics and systems biology to map spatial transcriptomics data onto the rich microscopy derived 3D model of the developing heart.

By the end of this thesis, the student will advance our fundamental understanding of biological processes that coordinate heart development and will have identified key changes that lead to NCC.

The project offers an exciting opportunity to gain experience in a multi-disciplinary environment. The student will work with experts in microscopy and image analysis situated at the Ian Holmes Microscopy Imaging Centre, and Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Melbourne, developmental biologists at Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute at Monash University as well as systems biologists at the Murdoch Childrens’ Research Institute  


The aim of the project is to trace the structural changes that define heart chamber formation in health and NCC.