Nenad Bursac, PhD

Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Associate Professor in Medicine
Professor in Cell Biology
Member of the Duke Cancer Institute
Co-Director of the Regeneration Next Initiative
Campus mail CIEMAS 1141, Durham, NC 27708
Phone (919) 660-5510

Bursac's research interests include: Stem cell, tissue engineering, and gene based therapies for heart and muscle regeneration; Cardiac electrophysiology and arrhythmias; Organ-on-chip and tissue engineering technologies for disease modeling and therapeutic screening; Small and large animal models of heart and muscle injury, disease, and regeneration.

The focus of my research is on application of pluripotent stem cells, tissue engineering, and gene therapy technologies for: 1) basic studies of striated muscle biology and disease in vitro and 2) regenerative therapies in small and large animal models in vivo. For in vitro studies, micropatterning of extracellular matrix proteins or protein hydrogels and 3D cell culture are used to engineer rodent and human striated muscle tissues that replicate the structure-function relationships present in healthy and diseased muscles. We use these models to separate and systematically study the roles of structural and genetic factors that contribute cardiac and skeletal muscle function and disease at multiple organizational levels, from single cells to tissues. Combining cardiac and skeletal muscle cells with primary or iPSC-derived non-muscle cells (endothelial cells, smooth muscle cells, immune system cells, neurons) allows us to generate more realistic models of healthy and diseased human tissues and utilize them to mechanistically study molecular and cellular processes of tissue injury, vascularization, innervation, electromechanical integration, fibrosis, and functional repair. Currently, in vitro models of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, Pompe disease, dyspherlinopathies, and various cardiomyopathies are studied in the lab. For in vivo studies, we employ rodent models of volumetric skeletal muscle loss, cardiotoxin and BaCl2 injury as well as myocardial infarction and transverse aortic constriction to study how cell, tissue engineering, and gene (viral) therapies can lead to safe and efficient tissue repair and regeneration. In large animal (porcine) models of myocardial injury and arrhythmias, we are exploring how human iPSC derived heart tissue patches and application of engineered ion channels can improve cardiac function and prevent heart failure or sudden cardiac death.


Education and Training

  • Ph.D., Boston University, 2000
  • B.S.E., University of Belgrade, 1994


Kirkton, Robert D., Nima Badie, and Nenad Bursac. “Spatial profiles of electrical mismatch determine vulnerability to conduction failure across a host-donor cell interface.” Circulation. Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology 6, no. 6 (December 2013): 1200–1207.

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Zhang, Donghui, Ilya Y. Shadrin, Jason Lam, Hai-Qian Xian, H Ralph Snodgrass, and Nenad Bursac. “Tissue-engineered cardiac patch for advanced functional maturation of human ESC-derived cardiomyocytes.” Biomaterials 34, no. 23 (July 2013): 5813–20.

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Christoforou, Nicolas, Malathi Chellappan, Andrew F. Adler, Robert D. Kirkton, Tianyi Wu, Russell C. Addis, Nenad Bursac, and Kam W. Leong. “Transcription factors MYOCD, SRF, Mesp1 and SMARCD3 enhance the cardio-inducing effect of GATA4, TBX5, and MEF2C during direct cellular reprogramming.” Plos One 8, no. 5 (January 2013): e63577.

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Christoforou, Nicolas, Brian Liau, Syandan Chakraborty, Malathi Chellapan, Nenad Bursac, and Kam W. Leong. “Induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiac progenitors differentiate to cardiomyocytes and form biosynthetic tissues.” Plos One 8, no. 6 (January 2013): e65963.

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Jiang, Wei, Donghui Zhang, Nenad Bursac, and Yi Zhang. “WNT3 is a biomarker capable of predicting the definitive endoderm differentiation potential of hESCs.” Stem Cell Reports 1, no. 1 (January 2013): 46–52.

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Truskey, George A., Hardean E. Achneck, Nenad Bursac, Hon Chan, Cindy S. Cheng, Cristina Fernandez, Sungmin Hong, et al. “Design considerations for an integrated microphysiological muscle tissue for drug and tissue toxicity testing.” Stem Cell Res Ther 4 Suppl 1 (2013): S10.

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Zhang, Donghui, Jason Lam, Brian Liau, Ralph Snodgrass, and Nenad Bursac. “Human Embryonic Stem Cell-Derived Cardiac Tissue Patch with Advanced Structure and Function.” Circulation 126, no. 21 (November 20, 2012).