Why autistic children are more likely to have gut problems

Australian Institute of Policy and Science (AIPS)

Why autistic children are more likely to have gut problems (Brisbane)

– Immunotherapy for solid cancers (Melbourne)

– Using your genes to detect autoimmune disease (Sydney)

– CSL Florey Next Generation awards announced, Parliament House, Canberra

Chloe Yap has debunked a widespread myth that the gut microbiome causes autism. It’s the other way round.

Last night, she received the 2022 CSL Florey Next Generation Award, at the annual dinner of the Australian Association of Medical Research Institutes, at Parliament House in Canberra.

Chloe and her colleagues performed the largest and most in-depth autism microbiome study to date, for the Autism CRC’s Australian Autism Biobank. They showed that children with autism were more likely to be picky eaters and that this was contributing to gut problems.

“Our study provides clarity for families and puts the focus on good diet rather than the false hope of experimental and expensive microbiome treatments,” she says.

Chloe is a PhD candidate at the Mater Research Institute and the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland. See her talk about her study.

The two runners-up were:

Jack Chan, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, who is enhancing a new form of cancer immunotherapy for the treatment of solid tumours.

Jose Alquicira Hernandez, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, who is studying the impact of genetic variation in the human immune system.

The CSL Florey Next Generation Award recognises a current PhD candidate who has demonstrated outstanding achievement and potential in biomedical sciences, health and medical research. It is an initiative of the Australian Institute of Policy and Science (AIPS), supported by CSL, to encourage the growth of up-and-coming researchers.

It carries a $20,000 cash prize and trophy for the winner and two runner-up prizes of $2,500 each.

“These are three remarkable early career researchers,” says CSL’s Chief Scientific Officer, Dr Andrew Nash. It’s wonderful to see the impactful contributions they are making to science.”

“Our support of the CSL Next Generation Florey Award is an example of how we are delivering on our promise to patients by fostering the next generation of medical researchers in Australia.

“Over their careers, these researchers could shape the future of health care and our way of life in ways we can’t even begin to imagine,” says Prof Maria Kavallaris, Co-Chair of AIPS.

Runners-up

Jack Chan, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, is enhancing a new form of cancer immunotherapy for the treatment of solid tumours.

Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy is a new form of immunotherapy that uses specially altered T-cells to target cancer cells directly and precisely. CAR T-cell therapy has successfully treated some blood cancers.

However, solid cancers are proving more challenging as CAR T-cells don’t live as long in patients with solid tumours. Jack is working to extend the life and effectiveness of CAR T-cells by inserting and modifying genes used by long-living memory cells from the immune system, making CAR T-cells more like memory cells. Jack and his colleagues are preparing to transition this research to clinical trials.

Jose Alquicira Hernandez, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, is studying the impact of genetic variation in the human immune system.

He finds and compiles the genetic molecular signatures that define each cell in the human body and uses this information to discover how a person’s genetic make-up contributes to autoimmune disorders.

Jose is one of the scientific leaders of the single-cell eQTL consortium, the largest international effort to characterise and map the effect of genetic variation in gene expression in specific immune cell types. This resource is helping other scientists identify targets for new drugs and other treatments for autoimmune diseases, which affect about five per cent of Australians.

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