Heart and kidney disease research wins national funding

Goodman cres

University of Adelaide researchers taking a new look at the science and physiology underlying heart attacks and strokes, the leading cause of death worldwide, and devising a new tool to maximise the benefits of kidney transplantation, are among the recipients of National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding announced today.

Associate Professor Peter Psaltis will lead a team of researchers investigating atherosclerosis, the build-up of fatty plaques inside the body’s arteries, which is the main underlying cause of heart attack and stroke. His team has been awarded $728,000 under the NHMRC’s Ideas Grants scheme for innovative and creative health and medical research.

His team has discovered a new population of stem cells in the outer layer of arteries which appear to play a role in the growth of plaques and evenutal artery blockages.

“As the main cause of heart attack and stroke, atherosclerosis is the leading cause of death worldwide and we need to better understand how it occurs to improve the ways we treat it,” says Associate Professor Psaltis, an Academic Cardiologist and Vascular Biologist with the University’s Adelaide Medical School, the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, and the Central Adelaide Local Health Network.

“Although most atherosclerosis research focuses on the development of plaque itself, an important but under-recognised aspect of the disease are changes that take place in the outer layer of the artery wall.

“This project will study these stem cells to determine how they cause plaques to form, so that we can develop new therapies that target these stem cells to more effectively treat atherosclerosis.”

University of Adelaide Associate Clinical Lecturer and Consultant Nephrologist at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Dr Georgina Irish, has been awarded an NHMRC Postgraduate Scholarship to support her PhD project Decision making in kidney transplantation.

“Kidney transplantation is a life-saving treatment for most people with end-stage kidney disease,” says Dr Irish. “For some people, however, it causes more harm than good.

“We will clarify which individuals will benefit from transplantation by personalising information on predicting potential outcomes after transplantation. The outcome will be the development of a decision tool to help doctors and patients make these challenging and irreversible decisions.”

“This latest research funding continues a run of outstanding results in 2020.”Professor Anton Middelberg

The University has 13 successful projects in the 2020 round of the Ideas Grants scheme for a total of $13.4 million, up significantly on last year’s $7.3 million. Two PhD students have won a Postgraduate Scholarship.

University of Adelaide Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Anton Middelberg says the University has had an excellent year in research with continuing strong performance in global rankings, major awards to staff including the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science, and expected record research income for the year.

“This latest research funding continues a run of outstanding results in 2020,” says Professor Middelberg. “The projects here highlight the way our research is directly relevant to our nation’s future, focusing on improving the health, wellbeing and advance of our community. Congratulations to all the successful recipients of this round of NHMRC funding.”

Other University of Adelaide recipients of Ideas Grants are:

  • Professor Justin St. John ($1,629,373) – Understanding the benefits and limitations of Metaphase II Spindle Transfer
  • Dr Jessica Grieger ($854,007) – Revolutionising personalised nutrition for gestational diabetes
  • Dr Jiawen Li ($992,112) – Serial imaging of molecular and microstructural changes in atherosclerosis: tracking plaques towards destabilisation
  • Dr Alison Care ($921,622) – A novel interaction between the immune and vascular systems in early-onset preeclampsia; an opportunity for new treatments?
  • Dr Timothy Sargeant ($594,687) – Autophagy increases with age and obesity to protect against cellular damage and age-related disease
  • Dr Danny Wilson ($898,043) – Host-directed therapy for malaria: host cell signalome as a target
  • Dr Kylie Dunning ($1,266,777) – A new light on diagnosing embryo health
  • Dr Katharina Richter ($999,581) – Improving clinical outcomes of antimicrobial resistant infections with a drug-free intervention
  • Associate Professor Michael Beard ($784,273) – Understanding the Innate Immune Response to Viral Infection of the Female Reproductive Tract and Placenta
  • Professor Jozef Gecz ($1,122,760) – A No Nonsense Approach to Genetic Disease
  • Dr Kim O’Donnel (1,950,172) – AKction2: Aboriginal Kidney Care Together – Improving Outcomes Now
  • Professor Laura Parry ($685,453) – A sweet therapeutic for vascular disease in pregnancy

Another Postgraduate Scholarship was awarded to Ryan Jalleh for a project: Understanding the relationship of incretin hormones, gastric emptying and reactive hypoglycaemia.

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