Stem cells and cardiovascular development

Using information about the genome of cells to understand the rules that instruct cells with the goal of disrupting these processes when they go awry in disease


The genetic basis of cardiovascular development and disease

During embryonic development, undifferentiated cells are prompted to make ‘decisions’ that ultimately direct them to becoming one tissue type or another.

The mechanisms that control genes and gene networks responsible for driving these decisions during cardiovascular differentiation are the focus of Dr Palpant’s research group.

“Information about changes in a cell’s environment are communicated through signals that are complex and very carefully orchestrated. This information instructs the nucleus to express intructions that guide cell decisions.” said Dr Palpant.


“The transcriptome – or collection of RNA readouts encoding information controlling a cell’s identity – changes through development and provides a signature of the function and fate of specific cell types.”

My laboratory uses stem cell science to study fundamental mechanisms of cell differentiation, develop protocols for differentiation into specific cell types, demonstrate that stem cells can function like cell types of the body, that lead to outcomes for delivering stem cells in commercial and clinical applications. Overall, fundamental mechanistic studies feed a pipeline delivering discoveries for impact in industry and clinical translation.

We focus on using stem cell biology and single cell genomics to enable major advances in fundamental and translational research using pluripotent stem cell biology.


My laboratory aims to accelerate our understanding of how cell decisions are controlled. We design methods for scalable perturbation studies, engineer how the genome controls cell decisions, and develop strategies to study, compare, and manipulate how cells function.

Group leader

Dr Nathan Palpant

Dr Nathan Palpant

Group Leader, Genomics of Development and Disease Division, Stem cells and cardiovascular development Group

Co-Director, Queensland Facility for Advanced Genome Editing

  +61 7 334 62054
  UQ Researcher Profile

Our approach

Part of Dr Palpant’s interests make use of diverse approaches including stem cell biology and genome engineering to study how they guide cell decisions. He uses information about the genome of cells to understand the rules that instruct cells with the goal of disrupting these processes when they go awry in disease. He also works closely with chemists and physicians to study how cells of the heart respond to stresses like heart attacks and finding new drugs to protect the heart from these injuries.

“We’re studying cardiovascular development and disease processes in the lab, from the genomic level to tissue-level engineering,” said Dr Palpant.

This offers the potential to develop approaches for cell therapeutic applications, model diseases, discover novel drugs, and devise other translational outcomes to address cardiovascular disease, the number-one killer in the world.

Research areas

Research using human pluripotent stem cells has opened significant opportunities in a number of fields including the study of early human development, developing models of human disease to discover new drugs, generating cell types that could help regenerate injured organs or tissues, and developing complex vascularized functional tissues to understand human physiology.

My lab bridges a wide range of applications with the intent of addressing the single most significant cause of death worldwide, cardiovascular disease.

Our team

  Group Leader

  • Dr Nathan Palpant

    Group Leader, Cell and Developmental Biology Division
    Principal Research Fellow
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience


  • Mr Han Chiu

    Research Assistant
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience
  • Dr Meredith Redd

    Research Officer
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience
  • Yuanzhao Cao

    Mr Yuanzhao Cao

    Higher degree by research (PhD) student & Postdoctoral Research Fellow
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience


Research excellence

$1.3 billion+ commercial investment attracted to IMB research
1454 international collaborators
385 original publications in 2020
$28M in research funding last calendar year
20%+ of patent families at UQ are derived from IMB research
100% of donations go to the cause

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