Grant support for crucial health and medical research 4 November

The University of Adelaide has been awarded $6 million for six research projects to investigate issues including fertility, mastitis and orthopaedic infections.

The funding is through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) 2021 Ideas Grant program, the second largest scheme in NHMRC’s grant program, accounting for approximately 25% of the Medical Research Endowment Account.

Funding has been awarded to:

– Professor Gerald Atkins, Adelaide Medical School

$893,116 to establish a new bone pathologic pathway and solve problems of diagnosis in chronic orthopaedic infections. Orthopaedic and other bone infections are difficult to diagnose, treat and cure. Hard bone is a unique niche for host-pathogen interaction that provides both serious treatment challenges and new opportunities for improving patient outcomes. Using analysis of human patients, unique animal and human models of bone infection, the proposal will revolutionise diagnosis and understanding of complex infections such as periprosthetic joint infection and diabetic foot infection.

– Associate Professor Wendy Ingman, Adelaide Medical School

$946,417 for a paradigm shift in lactational mastitis. Lactation mastitis is a debilitating inflammatory breast disease occurring in 1 in 5 Australian breastfeeding women. The disease causes lactation insufficiency, localised pain and rapid onset of fever, muscle aches, chills and fatigue, leading many women to use supplementary formula or cease breastfeeding altogether. This project will address key gaps in our understanding of the biological causes of mastitis and lead to improved prevention and treatment of this disease.

– Professor Andrew Zannettino, Adelaide Medical School

$649,347 to develop a novel glucose lowering medication targeting mTORC1 in osteoblasts. New medications to lower blood sugar levels are desperately needed to help treat the many millions of people at risk of developing chronic diseases associated with obesity and Type 2 diabetes (T2DM). Prof Zannettino’s group has identified a new drug target in bone forming cells. This target becomes over-activated in obesity and decreases the ability of insulin to stimulate sugar uptake. In this proposal, we will develop a novel inhibitor and test the inhibitor in a model system of diet-induced T2DM.

– Associate Professor Leonie Heilbronn, Adelaide Medical School

$1,189,927 for – Only a matter of time? A comparison of caloric restriction versus time restriction of food intake.The proposed study will compare the health benefits of limiting “when” vs “how much” is eaten on health in individuals at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The concept that marked improvements in health can be achieved by aligning food intake with circadian rhythms, without weight loss, is game changing. But we do not yet clearly understand how one performs against the other, or if both are required, in humans, since no trials have been performed.

– Professor Andrew Zannettino, Adelaide Medical School

$943,075 for a project on leveraging innovative multi-omic approaches to understand and predict myeloma disease development. Multiple myeloma is a fatal bone marrow cancer which is universally preceded by a pre-cancerous stage known as MGUS. We currently have no way of identifying which MGUS patients will develop myeloma and no treatments to prevent this process. This study will develop clinical tools to identify which MGUS patients are at high risk of developing myeloma, and will identify new therapeutic targets, to revolutionise how we treat MGUS and myeloma and improve outcomes for these patients.

– Dr Rebecca Robker, Robinson Research Institute

$1,449,103 for a project on remodelling the ovary to extend female fertility and health. Female infertility is commonly caused by an inability to release an egg from the ovary, particularly in women who are middle-age or if they have obesity or PCOS. We discovered that these females also have fibrosis in the ovary; excess collagen deposited by cellular stress and inflammation that prevents the egg from being released. This project will identify strategies to combat the detrimental changes in the ovary that cause fibrosis in order to improve female health.

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