Success for Adelaide-led medical research

Image of vials in a medical laboratory

The University of Adelaide has been awarded more than $8.8 million in research grants from the Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund’s (MRFF) to support targeted research on new ways to address risk factors for chronic and complex diseases.

The funding includes research with a focus on leukaemia, stroke, Aboriginal maternal health, endometriosis, stem cell treatments, and a childhood bone-growth disorder.

A team led by Associate Professor Renee Turner and collaborators will use their $2,582,876 grant to work on the SPRINTS Project: Stroke – prevention of Reperfusion Injury and Neuroinflammation. The therapeutic strategy represents a novel approach to significantly improve patient outcomes following an ischaemic stroke.

Professor Stan Gronthos and collaborators will use their $441,372 grant to develop a precision medicine-based approach to treat craniosynostosis in children. Craniosynostosis is the premature fusion of the skull plates and children with the condition can exhibit symptoms including facial asymmetry, increased intracranial pressure leading to neurological defects and, in some cases, are at increased risk of developing cognitive, language and motor skill difficulties during infancy and childhood. Current treatments rely on major invasive cranial surgery. The funding will be used to identify chemical inhibitors that supress bone formation in cranial suture stem cells, to generate reporter cell lines, and screen them for specific gene mutations known to cause craniosynostosis.

Professor Rachel Ankeny and her team have received $995,407 to develop and evidence-based model for building trust in Australian stem cell research and therapies. The project will utilise a novel, interdisciplinary research approach to build an evidence base and a detailed framework for improving community trust, acceptance, and adoption of stem cell-based therapies and, in turn, to improve the health and well-being of Australians.

Associate Professor Daniel Thomas and his team has received $853,275 to engineer human stem cells for mutation-specific eradication of Myelofibrosis. The team will develop innovative technology and in vitro biological assays for three of the most common driver mutations of myelofibrosis – a cancer characterised by inflammatory symptoms, progressive marrow fibrosis and shortened life expectancy with a view to eventually be able to adapt the technology to treat other cancers.

Professor Deborah White and her team will use their $1,292,872 grant to investigate adolescents with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL), focussing on gut microbiota and its role in therapeutic response and potential as an effective adjunct therapeutic. Teens with ALL are a vulnerable group and their outcomes are poor compared to those experiences by younger patients, exacerbated by being trapped between being treated as adults or children, with no specific approaches designed for this group. The project will focus on the impact of the gut microbiota on the clinical scenario in adolescent ALL patients and analyse and identify novel correlations between the gut microbiota, systemic and bone marrow immune composition, genomic subtype and the clinical response and toxicity of therapy. This will be the first time this has been demonstrated globally in adolescent, or any age group, of ALL and will provide evidence for new therapeutic approaches globally.

Associate Professor Louise Hull and her team have received $1,990,998 for IMAGEndo – artificial intelligence to help early detection of endometriosis. The project will provide a cost-effective, accessible, and accurate method to non-invasively diagnose endometriosis. Artificial intelligence using endometriosis ultrasound and MRI images will develop diagnostic algorithms that estimate the likelihood that an individual has endometriosis.

Doctor Yvonne Clark and team have received $672,286 to work with Aboriginal families and health and social service providers to assess the feasibility of a novel care package to reduce cannabis and alcohol use and social stress in pregnancy. By empowering women and their support persons/partner to address social health issues in the perinatal period, this study has the potential to produce transformative change to give Aboriginal children the best start in life.

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