Honour for outstanding contribution to understanding genes controlling kidney

Professor Melissa Little has been recognised for her outstanding contribution to genome research in Australia.

Professor Little, Theme Director of Cell Biology at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), was awarded the prestigious Julian Wells Medal at the Lorne GENOME Conference today where she will also deliver the Julian Wells Lecture.

“Genome research has come such a long way,” she said. “Our ability to look at what each gene is doing cell by cell inside an organ as complex as the kidney really is amazing.”

“Using this understanding to recreate human tissue is the next horizon.”

Professor Little is internationally recognised for her work on kidney development. For more than two decades, her team has investigated the molecular and cellular basis of kidney development and disease. This basic research has underpinned her pioneering studies into potential regenerative therapies for kidney disease.

In 2015, Professor Little and her team produced the world’s first ‘kidney in a dish’. Known today as kidney organoids, this research has become a foundation of ongoing work to find a regenerative solution for human kidney disease.

The Stem Cell Medicine Program at MCRI, led by Professor Little, is creating, manipulating and screening stem cells to develop personalised and novel treatments for rare and serious diseases.

Professor Little said MCRI’s stem cell program was opening a door to a whole new world of treatment possibilities.

“With the advent of disease modelling, drug screening and cellular therapy technologies, we hope to deliver more effective and targeted treatments for patients,” she said.

“Ultimately we aim to deliver more effective and personalised treatments or cures for every child.”

The Julian Wells Medal was established in recognition of the major contributions made by Julian Wells to the development of molecular biology in Australia, the initiation and success of the Lorne Genome Conference and for his research in understanding the genome.

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