Hang T. Ta1, 6, *, Zhen Li2, Christoph Hagemeyer3, Yuao Wu1, Hui Jean Lim1, Nina Arndt1, Gary Cowin4, Karlheinz Peter5, Andrew Whittaker1, 6, Grodon Xu1


1Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
2Australian Institute of Innovative Materials, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia
Australian Centre for Blood Diseases, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
4Centre for Advanced Imaging, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
5Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, Australia
6ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology
Correspondence to Hang Ta (E-mail:


Despite significant advances in diagnostic and therapeutic technologies, cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the global leading cause of death, accounting for 17.3 million deaths per year, and is expected to grow to more than 23.6 million by 2030 [1]. The most common form of CVD and also the leading cause of sudden death is atherosclerosis, a chronic progressive inflammatory disease of the arterial vessels. Unstable, vulnerable atherosclerotic plaques can rupture and cause thrombosis, resulting in myocardial infarction (MI) and stroke. Targeting of contrast agents to unstable atherosclerotic plaques offers the potential to identify such plaques before rupture, allowing suitable interventions and thus avoiding myocardial infarction and death. Similarly, targeting of therapeutics and homing of stem cells to disease sites increases the efficacy of the treatment and the regenerative cell therapy while reducing the amount of drugs and the number of cells required. We have developed a novel, gentle, robust, highly reproducible, and site-specific coupling method utilizing the Staphylococcus aureus sortase A enzyme to conjugate a single-chain antibody (scFv) to nanoparticles and cells for molecular imaging and stem cell homing in CVD. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been used as a powerful and indispensable tool in medical research and clinical diagnosis due to its high spatial resolution and non-limited penetration depth. We have developed both targeted negative contrast agents and targeted dual positive/negative contrast agents for molecular imaging of atherothrombosis. The simultaneous use of positive and negative MRI imaging that employs the same contrast agents will significantly improve the detection accuracy. Using these dual contrast agent, both T1- and T2-weighted MRI of thrombosis can be recorded simultaneously which enables self-confirmation of images and leads to a greater diagnostic accuracy. We have also designed and developed smart MRI nano-sensors that can not only detect, but also sense and report the stage or progression of CVD such as thrombosis. The early detection and accurate characterization of life-threatening diseases such as CVD and cancer are critical to the design of treatment. Knowing whether a thrombus in a blood vessel is new/fresh or old/constituted is very important for physicians to decide a treatment protocol.



1 Mozaffarian D, Benjamin EJ, Go AS, Arnett DK, Blaha MJ, Cushman M, et al. Circulation. 2015, 131, e30-e320. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics – 2015 Update.


Biographic Details

Name: Hang Ta

Title: Dr

Affiliation, Country: The University of Queensland, Australia

Phone: +61 7 33463851 E-mail: h.ta@uq.edu.au

Research interests: nanomaterials for cardiovascular disease, cancerous diseases and blood disorder diseases.


Dr. Hang Ta is a senior research officer, a NHMRC ECR Fellow at Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, the University of Queensland.  She got her Bachelor degree in Chemical Engineering, a Masters degree in Biotechnology and a PhD in Drug Delivery. During her research career, she has been awarded many prizes, grants and prestigious fellowships such as National Heart Foundation and NHMRC ECR fellowships. Her research addresses solutions for current problems in diagnosis and treatment of diseases. She is the first author of most of her publications (92%), most of which are on high-ranked journals. Her research was highlighted on cover page of Circulation Research, a second-ranked journal in the field of cardiovascular research. She had 2 FTE years career disruption from 2011 to 2014 due to medical treatment, maternity leave and family commitment. She is a peer reviewer for various scientific journals and also an assessor for masters/PhD thesis. She presented her works in 22 international and national conferences, received speaker and judge invitations to a number of international and national conferences. She is an invited guest lecturer on “Nanomaterials in cardiovascular diseases’ at University of Sydney and also a lecturer for “Biomaterials” course at the University of Queensland. She currently leads a team of 1 PhD, 1 MPhil and 4 undergraduate students.