$9 million of research targets major health issues
University of Adelaide led projects have received $9,401,459 to investigate a range of health issues such as how low-calorie sweeteners affect people with type 2 diabetes, using bioengineered tissue to rebuild eyes and the effectiveness of water fluoridation as a public health initiative.
“These National Health and Medical Research Council grants will enable University of Adelaide researchers to continue their world-leading work that will benefit people everywhere not just in Australia,” says Professor Anton Middelberg, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Adelaide.
“Some of the best experts in their fields will apply their skills and knowledge that will result in better health outcomes.
“The University of Adelaide has clearly defined industry engagement priorities in health, and a strategic commitment to tackling the grand challenge of improving health and wellbeing for the benefit of society.
“Today’s funding announcement is further evidence of how the University will achieve its aims,” he said.
The funding will be used in nine studies.
Dr Christina Bursill, Adelaide Medical School and SAHMRI: $632,690 over four years
Dr Bursill’s team will identify a new therapy that will reduce heart disease more effectively than conventional lipid-lowering therapies. The therapy will use a targeted approach that sensitively detects and specifically corrects the accumulation of fatty material in heart vessels.
Dr Susan Woods, Adelaide Medical School: $596,608 over five years
Early detection of bowel cancer means that more than 95 per cent of patients are cured but 4000 Australians still die every year. Dr Woods and her team will develop a new way to detect bowel cancer using probiotics which, in addition to being safe and well tolerated, naturally seek out cancer. The probiotics will be engineered to release a signal or a drug to detect the cancer.
Professor Wayne Tilley, Adelaide Medical School: $1,148,310 over four years
Breast cancer kills more than 3000 Australian women each year, in part because current therapies are not curative. Professor Tilley’s team has discovered that a hormone normally present in women can halt the growth of breast cancers. In addition, they have found new classes of drugs that have great potential to inhibit specific types of breast cancer. They will develop individualised treatment strategies that combine hormone treatment with these new targeted therapies to improve breast cancer survival.
Professor Loc Do, Adelaide Dental School: $1,655,282 over four years
There are concerns over the effectiveness and safety of water fluoridation. Professor Do’s team will collect contemporary high-level scientific evidence to better inform policy-makers at all levels about this major public health program.
Associate Professor Richard Young, Adelaide Medical School: $1,455,077 over four years
High consumption of low calorie sweeteners impairs the way the gut controls blood sugar levels in healthy people. The team will investigate whether this risk is higher in patients with type 2 diabetes. They will study whether sweeteners worsen the control of blood sugar by changing bacteria that live in the gut, to find new ways to avoid, and treat, type 2 diabetes.
Dr Michelle Sun, Adelaide Medical School: $311,476 over three years
There are potentially endless applications for tissue engineering in medicine. Dr Sun’s team will apply it to structures in and around the eye. Bioengineering involves creating replacement tissue using both artificial and biological material. By tackling progressively more complex structures there is a possibility that this work could restore people’s vision in the future.
Dr Laura Weyrich, Adelaide Dental School: $595,000 over five years
Bacterial transplants are already used effectively to cure infections and treat inflammatory diseases in the gut of patients. Dr Weyrich’s team will study how giving oral bacterial transplants may tackle diseases such as tooth decay and periodontal disease. They will develop and test the necessary tools to safely and effectively administer oral bacterial transplants and explore their effectiveness in treating dental decay.
Professor Paul Thomas, Adelaide Medical School: $935,080 over four years
Professor Thomas’s team will study how brain changes lead to epilepsy and facilitate development of new treatments. A common cause of epilepsy is changes in the PCDH19 gene. They will study changes in the gene to determine the primary cause of this condition and test whether gene therapy could be used to cure the disease.
Associate Professor Michael Stark, Michael Stark: $2,071,936 over five years
The aim of this study is to determine whether giving washed compared with standard unwashed allogeneic red blood cell (RBC) transfusions in very preterm newborns increases their survival rates. Very preterm babies are given RBC transfusions to treat anaemia but sometimes this can cause inflammation which affects their survival rate. Washed allogeneic RBCs are more expensive and have a shorter shelf life but the simple, and already available, process of washing could improve their clinical outcomes.
All of the studies are funded by NHMRC Ideas grants except Associate Professor Stark’s which is funded from a Clinical Trials and Cohorts Studies grant.
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