Stem cells and cardiovascular development

Discovering the genetic basis of cardiovascular development and disease

The Palpant laboratory focuses on mechanisms controlling cardiovascular development and disease, drawing on three core themes spanning genomics, cell biology, and cardiac physiology. We are studying mechanisms controlling human pluripotent stem cell differentiation to derive functional human cell types for disease modelling and cell therapeutics, using consortium-scale data and systems biology methods to identify mechanisms controlling cell identity and function, and studying molecules discovered in Australia’s venomous flora and fauna as new drug therapeutics for cardiovascular disease.

The lab expertise covers multidisciplinary approaches involving stem cell biology, genomics, statistical genetics, bioinformatics, gene editing, drug discovery, and animal physiology. We draw on national and international clinical and industry partnerships to orient our priorities toward translational opportunities that address key areas of unmet need in clinical care and industry discovery pipelines.

Group leader

Dr Nathan Palpant

Associate Professor
Nathan Palpant

Group Leader, Stem cells and cardiovascular development

  +61 7 334 62054
  UQ Researcher Profile

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  1. Wnt dose escalation during the exit from pluripotency identifies tranilast as a regulator of cardiac mesoderm. Wu, Zhixuan, Shen, Sophie, Mizikovsky, Dalia, Cao, Yuanzhao, Naval-Sanchez, Marina, Tan, Siew Zhuan, Alvarez, Yanina D., Sun, Yuliangzi, Chen, Xiaoli, Zhao, Qiongyi, Kim, Daniel, Yang, Pengyi, Hill, Timothy A., Jones, Alun, Fairlie, David P., Pébay, Alice, Hewitt, Alex W., Tam, Patrick P.L., White, Melanie D., Nefzger, Christian M. and Palpant, Nathan J. Developmental Cell, 2024; doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2024.01.019
  2. Acid-sensing ion channel 1a blockade reduces myocardial injury in rodent models of myocardial infarction. Meredith A Redd, Yusuke Yoshikawa, Nemat Khan, Maleeha Waqar, Natalie J Saez, Jennifer E Outhwaite, Jake S Russell, Amy D Hanna, Han S Chiu, Sing Yan Er, Neville J Butcher, Karine Mardon, John F Fraser, Mark L Smythe, Lachlan D Rash, Walter G Thomas, Glenn F King, Melissa E Reichelt, Nathan J Palpant.​​​​​ European Heart Journal, 2023; ehad793
  3. HOPX-associated molecular programs control cardiomyocyte cell states underpinning cardiac structure and function. Friedman, Clayton E., Cheetham, Seth W., Negi, Sumedha, Mills, Richard J., Ogawa, Masahito, Redd, Meredith A., Chiu, Han Sheng, Shen, Sophie, Sun, Yuliangzi, Mizikovsky, Dalia, Bouveret, Romaric, Chen, Xiaoli, Voges, Holly K., Paterson, Scott, De Angelis, Jessica E., Andersen, Stacey B., Cao, Yuanzhao, Wu, Yang, Jafrani, Yohaann M.A., Yoon, Sohye, Faulkner, Geoffrey J., Smith, Kelly A., Porrello, Enzo, Harvey, Richard P., Hogan, Benjamin M., Nguyen, Quan, Zeng, Jian, Kikuchi, Kazu, Hudson, James E. and Palpant, Nathan J. Developmental Cell, 59 (1), 91-107.e1. 2023; doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2023.11.012
  4. Organization of gene programs revealed by unsupervised analysis of diverse gene–trait associations. Mizikovsky D, Sanchez MN, Nefzger CM, Cuellar Partida G*, Palpant NJ*. Nucleic Acids Research, 2022; gkac413
  5. Therapeutic inhibition of acid sensing ion channel 1a recovers heart function after ischemia-reperfusion injury. Redd MA, Scheuer SE, Saez NJ, Yoshikawa Y, Chiu HS, Gao L, Hicks M, Villanueva JE, Joshi Y, Chow CY, Cuellar-Partida G, Peart JN, See Hoe LE, Chen X, Sun Y, Suen JY, Hatch RJ, Rollo B, Alzubaidi MAH, Maljevic S, Quaife-Ryan GA, Hudson JE, Porrello ER, White MY, Cordwell SJ, Fraser JF, Petrou S, Reichelt ME, Thomas WG, King GF*, Macdonald PS*, Palpant NJ*Circulation. 2021;144:947–960
  6. Integrating single-cell genomics pipelines to discover mechanisms of stem cell differentiation. Sophie Shen S, Sun Y, Matsumoto M, Sinniah E, Wilson SB, Little MH, Powell JE, Nguyen Q, Palpant NJTrends in Molecular Medicine. 2021, 27, 1135-1158.
  7. Conserved epigenetic regulatory logic infers genes governing cell identity. Shim WJ, Sinniah E, Xu J, Vitrinel B, Alexanian M, Andreoletti G, Shen S, Sun Y, Balderson B, Boix C, Peng G, Jing N, Wang Y, Kellis M, Tam P, Smith A, Piper M, Christiaen L, Nguyen Q, Boden M**, Palpant NJ**Cell Systems. 11, 625-639 e613 (2020).
  8. Single-Cell Transcriptomic Analysis of Cardiac Differentiation from Human PSCs Reveals HOPX-Dependent Cardiomyocyte Maturation. Friedman CE, Nguyen Q, Lukowski SW, Chiu HS, Helfer A, Miklas J, Suo SS, Han JDJ, Osteil P, Peng G, Jing N, Baillie GJ, Senabouth A, Christ AN, Bruxner TJ, Murry CE, Wong ES, Ding J, Wang Y, Hudson J, Ruohola-Baker H, Bar-Joseph Z, Tam PPL, Powell JE**, and Palpant NJ**Cell Stem Cell. 2018 Oct 4;23(4):586-598.e8.

View all Publications

Dr Amy HannaIMB Women in Science and Technology (WIST) Fund recipient (2023)
Dr Enakshi SinniahEmerging Achiever Science Award Finalist, Women in Technology Awards (2022)
Dr Enakshi SinniahIgnite Innovation Award, Institute for Molecular Bioscience (2022)
Dr Enakshi SinniahLindau Nobel Laureate meeting nomination by the Australian Academy of Sciences (2022)
Dr Nathan PalpantHeart Foundation Future Leader Fellowship Award (2022)
Dr Woo Jun ShimEmma Whitelaw ECR Publication Award – Australian Epigenetics Alliance (2022)
Dr Woo Jun ShimUQ Industry Engagement Award (2022)
Dalia MizikovskyQueensland Cardiovascular Research Network PhD top up scholarship (2022)
Dr Meredith ReddInstitute for Molecular Bioscience Impact Award for Paper of the Year (2021)
Dalia MizikovskyBest First Year PhD Student Short Oral Presentation Award Australian Society for Stem Cell Research (ASSCR) ECR Symposium (2021)
Dr Meredith ReddRalph Reader Basic Science Prize of Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand (CSANZ) (2021)
Dalia MizikovskyMichael F. Hickey Memorial Honours Prize, The University of Queensland (2020)
Enakshi Sinniah

ISSCR Zhong Mei Chen Yong Award for Scientific Excellence International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR)
Annual International Meeting held in Boston, USA (2020)

Dr Nathan PalpantLorne Genome Millennium Science Mid-Career Award (2019)
Dr Nathan PalpantGlobal Strategy and Partnerships Award, The University of Queensland (2019)
Dr Nathan PalpantWellcome Trust Award, The International Congress of the Society for Developmental Biology, held in Singapore (2019)
Dr Meredith ReddOutstanding Poster Presentation Award at ISSCR/KSSCR Annual Meeting, held in Seoul, South Korea (2019)
Dr Meredith ReddTravel Award for Best ECR/MCR Presentation at NIH Cardiovascular Bioengineering Symposium, held in Sydney, Australia (2019)
Enakshi SinniahBest Oral Presentation Award Australian Society for Stem Cell Research (ASSCR) Annual Meeting held in Brisbane, Australia (2019)
Enakshi SinniahISSCR/KSSCR Travel Grant for Outstanding Oral Presentation Award ISSCR/KSSCR Annual Meeting held in Seoul, South Korea (2019)
Enakshi SinniahBest PhD Talk Award Oz Single Cell Conference Annual Meeting held in Melbourne, Australia – Enakshi Sinniah (2019)
Dr Nathan PalpantResearch Excellence Award, The University of Queensland Foundation (2019)

The Palpant lab is comprised of members with a range of career development from honours and PhD students to research assistants and postdocs that enable training at all levels. The lab has diverse areas of expertise including wet lab work on stem cell biology and animal models to dry lab work with expertise analysing large scale genomic data. This diversity provides an ideal environment for interdisciplinary collaborations across the lab that result in high impact papers delivered by members at all levels of training. I am engaged with project design and analysis across the lab and aim to mentor groups to work together on projects to facilitate team involvement while ensuring each member has a clear and distinct project to work on.

Our Strategy

The Palpant laboratory aims to identify the decision-making DNA elements of cells, design approaches to control cell differentiation decisions during development, and discover new approaches to control heart cell functions including development of new therapeutics for heart disease.

We implement diverse wet and dry lab approaches linking genome regulation with cell function using computational bioinformatics, cell biology, gene editing, animal physiology, and drug discovery.

Outcomes from the group have led to translational impact including formation of a new UQ spinout company, Infensa Bioscience, as well as partnerships with companies in Europe, Canada, and the US. The team has expertise in pluripotent stem cell biology, cardiac muscle cells, and genomics with our publications cited 7-fold higher than the field average (Topic E 4031 FWCI of 7.37, SciVal). Our research has been featured on the ABC (including a Catalyst documentary), Newsweek, The Guardian, and The Washington Post.  



Key areas of interest

  • Genome sequencing is a powerful tool for studying the biological basis of disease, yet out of millions of data points, finding the underlying cause of development and disease can be difficult. We are using methods in systems biology and genomics to develop innovative computational approaches that reveal how the genome controls cell decisions. These tools not only reveal novel processes controlling development but can also identify regions of the genome underpinning mechanisms of disease.
  • Our inability to accurately guide cell differentiation pathways currently limits the utility of iPSC-derived cell products in research, tissue engineering, and drug discovery. We are delivering benchmark data and iPSC tools that are accelerating discovery into mechanisms of cell differentiation. We use iPSCs with cell barcoding technology and new sequencing approaches to evaluate mechanisms of cell differentiation decisions at single cell resolution and develop models of cardiovascular disease for drug discovery.
  • Conditions caused by obstruction of blood flow to the heart are the most common emergency manifestation of cardiovascular disease and the leading cause of death in the world. We work closely with chemists and clinicians to discover and test new drugs to address this key area of unmet need. Our recent work has focused on a spider-venom derived inhibitor of ASIC1a, Hi1a, which we are advancing into large animal models and FDA approved safety tests for clinical development to treat ischemic heart disease.

Our Team

  Group Leader



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