Nenad Bursac

Nenad Bursac

Professor of Biomedical Engineering

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.


Appointments and Affiliations

  • Professor of Biomedical Engineering
  • Professor in Cell Biology
  • Associate Professor in Medicine
  • Co-Director of the Duke Regeneration Center
  • Member of the Duke Cancer Institute

Contact Information


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

Research Interests

Embryonic and adult stem cell therapies for heart and muscle disease; cardiac and skeletal muscle tissue engineering; cardiac electrophysiology and arrhythmias; genetic modifications of stem and somatic cells; micropatterning of proteins and hydrogels.

Courses Taught

  • NEUROSCI 301L: Bioelectricity (AC or GE)
  • EGR 393: Research Projects in Engineering
  • CELLBIO 493: Research Independent Study
  • BME 792: Continuation of Graduate Independent Study
  • BME 791: Graduate Independent Study
  • BME 578: Quantitative Cell and Tissue Engineering (GE, BB, MC)
  • BME 507: Cardiovascular System Engineering, Disease and Therapy (GE, BB, EL)
  • BME 494: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 493: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 394: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 301L: Bioelectricity (AC or GE)
  • BIOLOGY 493: Research Independent Study

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Khodabukus, A; Prabhu, NK; Roberts, T; Buldo, M; Detwiler, A; Fralish, ZD; Kondash, ME; Truskey, GA; Koves, TR; Bursac, N, Bioengineered Model of Human LGMD2B Skeletal Muscle Reveals Roles of Intracellular Calcium Overload in Contractile and Metabolic Dysfunction in Dysferlinopathy., Adv Sci (Weinh) (2024) [10.1002/advs.202400188] [abs].
  • Strash, N; DeLuca, S; Janer Carattini, GL; Chen, Y; Wu, T; Helfer, A; Scherba, J; Wang, I; Jain, M; Naseri, R; Bursac, N, Time-dependent effects of BRAF-V600E on cell cycling, metabolism, and function in engineered myocardium., Science advances, vol 10 no. 4 (2024) [10.1126/sciadv.adh2598] [abs].
  • Fuchs, MA; Burke, EJ; Latic, N; Murray, S; Li, H; Sparks, M; Abraham, D; Zhang, H; Rosenberg, P; Hänzelmann, S; Hausmann, F; Huber, T; Erben, R; Fisher-Wellman, K; Bursac, N; Wolf, M; Grabner, A, Fibroblast Growth Factor (FGF) 23 and FGF Receptor 4 promote cardiac metabolic remodeling in chronic kidney disease., Res Sq (2023) [10.21203/] [abs].
  • Nguyen, HX; Wu, T; Needs, D; Zhang, H; Perelli, RM; DeLuca, S; Yang, R; Pan, M; Landstrom, AP; Henriquez, C; Bursac, N, Author Correction: Engineered bacterial voltage-gated sodium channel platform for cardiac gene therapy., Nat Commun, vol 14 no. 1 (2023) [10.1038/s41467-023-43260-9] [abs].
  • Needs, D; Wu, T; Nguyen, HX; Henriquez, CS; Bursac, N, Prokaryotic voltage-gated sodium channels are more effective than endogenous Nav1.5 channels in rescuing cardiac action potential conduction: an in silico study., American journal of physiology. Heart and circulatory physiology, vol 325 no. 5 (2023), pp. H1178-H1192 [10.1152/ajpheart.00287.2023] [abs].