Monday, 31 October 2016

Monash researchers recognised for world-leading kidney research

Kim O'Sullivan
For the eighth consecutive year, a member of a kidney research group at the Monash Centre for Inflammatory Diseases and Monash Health has won the highly prestigious Young Investigator Award for basic science at the Australian and New Zealand Society of Nephrology (ANZSN) Annual Scientific Meeting.

Monash University PhD student and research assistant Kim O’Sullivan received the highly competitive award for her research into vasculitis, an autoimmune disease that damages the kidneys, last month at the Asia-Pacific Society of Nephrology in Perth.

Kim presented her findings at the ANZSN Annual Scientific Meeting that an enzyme called deoxyribonuclease 1 (or DNase 1) could be a potential therapeutic in patients with anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA) associated vasculitis. 

“Current treatment options for vasculitis include corticosteroids and chemotherapy drugs. These drugs suppress the immune system and aim to control inflammation, but have very significant side effects,” said senior investigator and Monash Health nephrologist Professor Stephen Holdsworth.

“Kim’s work helps us better understand the mechanism of disease in ANCA vasculitis in order to define specific, less toxic therapies for this disease.”

“Immune cells central to this disease—neutrophils—throw out web-like structures called NETs,” said Professor Holdsworth.

“In infections, these NETs trap bacteria—making them very useful, but in vasculitis they are bad, as they promote inflammation and cause kidney damage.”

“Kim’s work has shown that these NETs are prominent in humans with vasculitis, and she has now found that DNAse 1, a natural enzyme already used to treat humans with other conditions, can effectively limit kidney injury in vasculitis.”

“Finding targeted treatments that produce fewer side-effects and greater quality of life is a key aspect of our work,” said Kim.

Kim said it was very satisfying to have her hard work recognised. 

“Receiving this award made the time spent away from my three children, conducting the experiments, and preparing for the conference worthwhile,” said Kim.

“Being selected as a finalist enabled my research to be heard at a national and international level as the conference was held this year in conjunction with the Asia-Pacific Congress of Nephrology.”

The four finalists in this award were all from Monash University, with Monash Centre for Inflammatory Diseases PhD students Megan Huynh and Sharmilla Ramassur also receiving awards.

Professor Holdsworth said the ongoing success of the Centre for Inflammatory Diseases in kidney research is due both to the intelligent hard-working students in the Centre, as well as the outstanding science being promoted by the Centre’s Chief Investigators.

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