About Dr Munira Xaymardan

Despite progress in pharmacological and surgical approaches, cardiovascular disease remains the greatest cause of morbidity and mortality in developed countries and is increasingly prevalent in developing countries. Deaths from cardiovascular disease outnumber those from all cancers combined. Scar tissue or fibrosis results from cardiomyocyte damage following acute ischemic injury (e.g. myocardial infarction) or during chronic disease (e.g., hypertension or diabetes). This reduces contractile function, and ultimately causes heart failure and death. Heart transplantation is currently the only therapy for fibrotic change in the heart; however, new strategies are needed because donor hearts are scarce and complications frequent. Stem/progenitor cell based therapies may provide new therapeutic modalities, however, the beneficial effect of the stem cells tested to date (including bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells isolated from other tissues including the heart) have been proven to have limited therapeutic potentials via their paracrine activities, secretion of pro-angiogenic, anti-apoptotic, and anti-inflammatory cytokines that promote vascularization and guide tissue-intrinsic progenitors to participate in repair process. However, the differentiation activities seem to be generally infrequent therefore insufficient to replace parenchymal cell loss. This study may provide an interesting source for cardiac regeneration from a previously unknown region of the body, facial stem cells. The data collected will add valuable knowledge to the development of the orofacial muscles which is important to the development of the mammalian on the whole. The data collected will also provide insight into cardiomyocyte differentiation, potentially providing an alternative, perhaps more effective source for the heart repair.

I am a dental professional, research scientist and academic. I head the Faculty of Dentistry's Life Science Discipline. During my dental training, I conducted research on tooth extraction in patients with cardiovascular compromise, requiring specialised training in cardiology. This, combined with my PhD studies in Sydney on angiogenesis, set the course for a research career in cardiovascular medicine including exploring the dentistry-cardiology link. I am a recipient of an Australian PhD scholarship (1996-2000), a New Investigator Award (American Heart Association, 2003) and several travel awards while working at the Cornel University, I have received two prestigious postdoctoral awards: Banting and Best Fellowship (2004-6), and Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation fellowship (2007-9). I acquired research skills at the Cornel University and Toronto University during my postdoctoral training. My interests include cardiac interstitial stem cells, and the embryological link between orofacial and cardiac muscle development and regeneration. I am particularly interested in the effect of platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) and their receptors on cardiac development, homeostasis, and post-injury repair. I have published articles in top tier journals including the Journal of Experimental Medicine, Circulation Research, Science KE, Stem Cell, Molecular, Cellular Cardiology and Cell Stem Cell. Also co-inventor of two US patent. Working with Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, we have defining a population of mesenchymal progenitor cells in the developing and adult hearts. A major body of work entitled "The role of PDGF in modulating adult cardiac stem cell states" is in manuscript preparation stage. In this work, they have intensely analysed cell cycle state of PDGFR+ cells in health, disease and ageing. This work has found that systemically administered PDGF can activate the cardiac stem cells within their niches, and improve cardiac function after myocardial infarction, suggestively via induction of a myofibroblast-like intermediate. Data on PDGFR cell growth curves from heterochronic parabiotic pairs suggests that the cells from old mice can be "rejuvenated" to some extent by exposure to young mouse circulation.
Ongoing studies on the dentistry-cardiology link include tracking the expression of the cardiac homeobox-containing gene NKX2-5, which is involved in cardiac development and function. Preliminary data, which indicate NKX2-5 also may play a role in facial muscle (tongue) development. This area of research is currently actively being pursued through further studies. I have experiences in teaching postgraduate dental students and research student currently has two PhD students and a visiting trainee under my supervision in the Bioengineering laboratory. I have participated in reviews of journal articles and grants (including NHMRC). I have presented my wok in more than 40 national and international conferences and with my experiences in international travels and research, I am placed in an advantageous position to supervise and coordinate the proposed project.

For a comprehensive profile of Dr. Munira Profile please visit Sydney Medical School profile page.