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Australian breakthrough in heart tissue engineering

10 July, 2006

The Treasurer has announced a major breakthrough for international medical science in the field of tissue engineering by an Australian Research Institute.

The team of leading Australian-based scientists and surgeons at the Bernard O’Brien Institute of Microsurgery in Melbourne, led by Professor Wayne Morrison and under the Chairmanship of Mr Ronald J Walker AC CBE and his board, has grown new heart tissue inside the body.

This discovery – a world first – is expected to lead to the creation of organs, including parts of the heart, in the laboratory using a patient’s own tissue.

The Australian Government provided over $300,000 to support the commencement of this tissue engineering work in 2001.

The discovery will have enormous significance for heart treatment around the world. The living heart muscle could be used to enhance a patient’s damaged heart, mend a damaged segment of heart muscle after a heart attack, or reconstruct congenital heart defects.

Cardiovascular disease remains Australia's leading killer of men and women. Around 3.5 million Australians are affected by cardiovascular disease, placing a huge economic and social burden on our health system.

The 2006-07 Budget continued the Coalition Government’s long-term commitment to maintaining Australia’s position as a world leader in health and medical research. Funding in this year’s Budget, together with measurers in earlier budgets, will see annual health and medical research funding rise to over $700 million by 2009-10 – representing a five-fold increase on the 1995-96 level of $127 million.

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