Biomaterials, self-assembled gene delivery systems, cardiac reprogramming and animal models

Dr Li-Yen Wong's research project was focused on the development of a novel stimuli-responsive biomaterial delivery system to target specific cell types in the heart with the aim of treating myocardial infarcts. This involved polymer chemistry, synthesis and characterisation (FTIR, NMR and DLS) as well as self-assembly of nanoparticle components to form a supramolecular complex that can package genetic material such as plasmids or miRNAs, permit cellular uptake via receptor mediated endocytosis, endosomal escape and deliver plasmids or miRNAs for induced gene expression. Furthermore, the nanoparticle construct was decorated with peptides that can specifically target cardiac fibroblasts and was utilised to deliver cardiac-specific plasmids or miRNAs to reprogram them into functional cardiomyocytes. The skill set and expertise that I bring to the Cooper-White group range from polymer synthesis and characterisation, hydrogel fabrication, isolation of primary cardiac fibroblasts, cell culture and maintenance of cardiac fibroblasts, plasmid extractions, molecular biology, non-viral transfections of plasmids and miRNAs, direct cardiac reprogramming using nanoparticles, intramyocardial injections, cardiac surgery, animal handling and dissections using murine models.

Dr Wong was awarded a Bachelor in Biomedical Engineering (Hons) from the University of Melbourne with a background in stem cells and tissue engineering. After graduation, Dr Wong commenced a PhD in 2012 with the Cooper-White Group. During her PhD, she presented at multiple conferences including: TERMIS-AP, Stem Cells Australia, and at the Centre for Cardiovascular and Vascular Biology (CCVB) group retreat at North Stradbroke Island. During her PhD she was awarded first place and people's choice prize for her Three Minute Thesis presentation. The major achievements for her work led to an NHMRC funding grant in cardiac reprogramming as well as a Marshall and Warren award for her principal supervisor.


During her PhD Dr Wong had a collaboration with Dr Enzo Porrello, Head of the Cardiac Regeneration Group at SBMS, Prof Ernst Wolvetang from the Stem Cell Engineering group, AIBN and our colleagues in CSIRO, Monash University.


The scholarships that I held were the University of Queensland Research Scholarship (UQRS) and Queensland Smart State Future PhD Top-Up Scholarship from the Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation (DSITI).