Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Monash discovery points towards more targeted treatments for vasculitis

Professor Richard Kitching, Director Centre for Inflammatory Diseases discusses their latest research findings about vasculitis, a condition that can lead to serious organ damage—especially to the kidneys.

Researchers in the Centre for Inflammatory Diseases at Monash University have discovered that a particular immune cell (CD8 T cells) plays an important role in the development of vasculitis.

Promising new treatment for lupus on the horizon

Professor Eric Morand
A drug originally used to boost the immune system is showing promise as a potential new treatment for lupus, research published today (August 9) shows. Lupus is an autoimmune disease, where the immune system attacks the body’s own organs and tissues, causing inflammation and, potentially, organ failure.

An international team of scientists from Australia and China have shown for the first time, in a study published today in Nature Medicine, that a natural immune system protein called IL-2 can help restore balance to the overactive immune system of lupus patients. The drug could soon be rolled out for clinical trials in lupus treatment.

Professor Zhanguo Li from Peking University People’s Hospital in China, and Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute researcher, Dr Di Yu, co-led the study.
Dr Yu said he hoped the drug could be approved as a lupus treatment within a handful of years.

“This drug, which can help the immune system fight against cancer, was approved in the 1990s but is not commonly used now– we’re just using this drug for a different purpose, based on our new knowledge of the immune system,” Dr Yu said.  

“The amount we tested for treating lupus is much less than the dose used in treating cancers. We observed the treatment was safe and showed promising results, so there’s reason to believe formal trials could begin almost immediately,” he said.

Dr Yu said lupus could be a serious disease, and that it hadn’t been able to be treated in a very satisfactory way in the past.

“With the treatments available at the moment, many people still have flare-ups on a regular basis, or serious side effects,” Dr Yu said.

IL-2 is a protein that regulates the activity of white blood cells, which are an important part of the immune system that protect the body against infections. In cancer therapy, patients are given large doses of IL-2 to stimulate their immune system but, paradoxically, the low dose IL-2 given to lupus sufferers in this study actually supressed the overactive part of their immune system that attacks their body. The research also showed the “self-checking” part of the immune system that prevents an overactive immune response, called regulatory T cells, increased after IL-2 treatment.

Dr Yu said: “This drug shows real promise for treating a number of diseases when given in low doses. This is the first time IL-2 has been studied as a treatment for a group of patients with lupus, and the results are very encouraging.”  

Professor Eric Morand, fellow Monash University researcher on the study and founder of the Asia Pacific Lupus Collaboration, said that in this study, IL-2 was given to people whose lupus wasn’t responding well to standard treatments.  

“The real promise of this treatment is that it calms the hyperactive immune system through multiple mechanisms, which is very important as this new therapy may be effective for many patients,” Professor Morand said.

”As the drug has been on the market for some time for other diseases, it can be rapidly put into formal trials for lupus treatment right away.”

Co-first authors Dr Xia Zhang from Peking University People’s Hospital in China, and Associate Professor Yunbo Wei, from Shandong Academy of Sciences, performed a large part of the research, both visiting Monash University to train with Dr Yu and carry out the research.

The researcher’s work was supported by several international funding bodies, including the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, and the Priority Research Program of the Shandong Academy of Sciences. 

Monday, 8 August 2016

Monash discovery points towards more targeted treatments for vasculitis

Dr Joshua Ooi
Vasculitis that involves autoimmune inflammation of the small blood vessels, may sound relatively harmless. But it’s a condition that can lead to serious organ damage—especially to the kidneys.

Researchers in the Centre for Inflammatory Diseases at Monash University have discovered that a particular immune cell (CD8 T cells) plays an important role in the development of vasculitis.

Published recently in the prestigious Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, the study could lead to the development of improved treatments with fewer side effects for these debilitating
Janet Chang

“Vasculitis lacks the profile of other autoimmune diseases, although the incidence in Australia is similar to multiple sclerosis (1/50,000 people) and is most common in people aged 65-74 years,” said co-lead researcher Dr Joshua Ooi. 

One of the problems with the treatment of vasculitis is that there aren’t therapies that are both effective and have a low chance of side effects.

“Without treatment, 80 per cent of patients with vasculitis die within five years. Even with treatment, around 30 per cent of patients die, and half of those die from complications relating to the life-saving treatments given,” said Dr Ooi.

Co-lead researcher and Centre for Inflammatory Diseases’ Director Professor Kitching said that a few years ago, colleagues at the University of Cambridge recognised that a particular genetic signature in CD8 T cells could predict who would get bad disease and who would get less severe disease.

“While the Cambridge discovery had the potential to determine which vasculitis patients would need more intensive and less intensive treatment, no one had determined whether these cells themselves might be important in the disease,” said Professor Kitching.

“Our paper has shown for the first time that CD8 cells, a type of immune cell that usually kill our cells after they are infected by viruses, actually do play a damaging role in vasculitis.”

Currently, vasculitis patients receive a one-size-fits-all type of therapy, with some being over-treated and others under-treated.

First author and School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health (SCS) PhD student Ms Janet Chang said that as these CD8 cells themselves emerge as targets in immune disease, we may develop better treatments with fewer side effects than the current non-specific immune suppressive drugs.

“We believe our study is a further step along the road to more specific, more targeted, and more effective treatments for this difficult to treat disease,” said Professor Kitching.

This work was funded by an NHMRC Project Grant.   Watch a short video about this research here.

Research award will benefit research into improved treatment regimens for paracetamol poisoning

Dr Anselm Wong
Monash University PhD student and Monash Health clinical toxicologist Dr Anselm Wong has received the Morson-Taylor award for his research project assessing a shortened treatment protocol for poisoning with paracetamol, one of the most common poisonings treated in Australian emergency departments.

The competitive research grant worth $10,000 from the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine (ACEM) will support Dr Wong’s research into modified acetylcysteine treatment regimens. 

“Paracetamol is one of the most common medications taken in overdose, both accidentally and intentionally, around the world—it is readily available and doesn’t require a prescription to purchase,” said Dr Wong, who is completing his PhD at the School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health (SCS).

In Australia, there are approximately 8,000 cases of paracetamol poisoning presenting to emergency departments each year while the UK sees approximately 70,000 cases every year.

“Acetylcysteine (N-acetylcysteine or NAC) is the antidote used to treat patients at risk of developing liver toxicity following paracetamol overdose, and the current standard treatment regimen is 20 hours,” said Dr Wong.

“20 hours of treatment in hospital can be problematic as many of these patients also suffer from mental health problems and need urgent access to mental health assessment and care.”

Dr Wong’s study, the NACSTOP Trial, will investigate whether the acetylcysteine treatment regimen can be shortened to 12 hours in a low-risk cohort of patients.

Dr Wong said that if successful, a reduced treatment regimen will allow for earlier assessment and referral of patients requiring treatment for co-existing mental health conditions, and potentially free-up capacity in busy emergency departments and medical units.

The NACSTOP Trial is a multi-centre, cluster-controlled study of patients with single or staggered paracetamol overdose who present to the Emergency Departments in six Australian metropolitan hospitals in Victoria and New South Wales, including Monash Medical Centre, Dandenong Hospital and Casey Hospital.

Dr Wong is supervised by Professor Andis Graudins, Director Monash Clinical Toxicology Service.  His research is also supported by an NHMRC Postgraduate Research Scholarship.    

Monash PhD student wins scientific communication award

Stuart Emmerson with
Associate Professor Gargett
Stuart Emmerson picked up his first science text book only five years ago. He’s come a long way since then, winning a competitive communication award for his scientific presentation at the Australasian Gynaecological Endoscopy & Surgery Pelvic Floor Symposium last month in Melbourne.

Amongst mostly clinical presentations, Stuart presented his research on pelvic organ prolapse (POP), a major clinical condition that affects approximately 25% of all women around the world.

“I presented my work on the effect of parity on the ovine vaginal wall, part of Associate Professor Caroline Gargett’s NHMRC funded project ‘Towards clinical translation of a cell based therapy for pelvic organ prolapse’,” said Stuart, a first year PhD student at The Ritchie Centre, Hudson Institute of Medical Research and Monash University.

“I correlated histological and biomechanical properties with clinical measures of vaginal wall weakness, which is evidence of prolapse vulnerability.”

Stuart’s study is a collaboration between The Ritchie Centre, CSIRO, and clinical collaborators and Monash Health urogynaecologists Associate Professor Anna Rosamilia and Dr Natharnia Young.

Associate Professor Gargett’s research group is developing stem cell based therapy that involves seeding endometrial mesenchymal stem cells onto a polyamide mesh that has been coated in gelatin.

“By implanting this cell/mesh construct into the vaginal walls, we hope to alleviate the herniation and rehabilitate tissue to strengthen it against POP in the future,” said Associate Professor Gargett.”

“I am delighted to have received an award for best free communication at a conference attended by fantastic minds in a difficult field,” said Stuart.

“This award confirms my belief not to fear making mistakes because you can always learn from them—and I’ve certainly made enough!”

Stuart said the recognition of his work is inspiration to never, ever give up.

Since receiving this award, Stuart has also won the best junior PhD Three Minute Thesis and Audience Choice Awards at the Ritchie Centre Three Minute Thesis competition.

Administrative excellence recognised at the School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health

Melissa Edwards
Congratulations Melissa Edwards, recipient of the 2016 Dean’s Award in Excellence in Administration.

Responsible for clinical site administration in the School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health (SCS), Melissa manages the education program for all medical students at Casey Hospital.

“With 400 medical students we are the largest clinical school, and Melissa coordinates rotations, tutorials, seminars and group teaching so that all students access our educational activities,” said Director, Undergraduate Medical Education at SCS, Associate Professor Sally Ayoub.

 “Ensuring that Year 3, 4 and 5 students are all taken care of can be a challenge,” said Melissa. “There are a lot of people to coordinate when arranging rotations, including consultants and ward staff and we also have to comply with Faculty regulations.”

“I recognise that students from each year level have different needs and sometimes students just need to take time out and have a chat—so pastoral care can play a large part in my job.”

Associate Professor Ayoub said that because of her close and regular contact with students, Melissa plays an extremely important role for SCS medical students who are frequently anxious and have high rates of mental health issues.

“Melissa identifies and triages any student welfare issues so potential problems can be rapidly escalated and dealt with,” added Associate Professor Ayoub.

“I love my job!” said Melissa.  “It’s really rewarding seeing our students grow from their first clinical setting placement into confident young doctors.”

Melissa said she is honoured to have been nominated for this award.

“It’s really nice to be recognised for the hard work I’ve put in at Casey to make it a friendly and encouraging environment for students to undertake clinical placements.”

“I’m very lucky to be supported by the team at Monash Medical Centre and Dandenong Hospital, including Associate Professor Sally Ayoub and Nicola Abel.”

“The School of Clinical Sciences is a great place to work and I’m very proud to be part of our team.”

Ritchie Centre Colloquium, Public Forum 25-26 August

Innovations in stem cell and regenerative medicine research and women’s and children’s health will be the focus of this year's Ritchie Centre Colloquium and Public Forum at the TRF, from August 25 – 26. The forum will explore stem cell treatments and trials as well as the regulatory environment in which clinicians currently operate in this rapidly growing area.

 Stem cells and regenerative medicine have been identified by the National Institutes of Health in the USA as the next pillar in modern medicine. The Asia-Pacific stem cell market alone is projected to increase to $US18.7 billion by 2018, from $US7.10 billion in 2014.

The Ritchie Centre (Monash University and Hudson Institute of Medical Research) is a leading centre for stem cell and regenerative medicine research in Australia. The Centre hosts the annual Colloquium and Public Forum to inform and educate the general and scientific communities on women’s and children’s health issues.

Keynote invited speakers at this year’s event will include Professor John Rasko, A/Professor Jerry Chan, Professor David Gardner, and Professor William Sievert.

Public Forum
On Thursday night The Ritchie Centre will host a Public Forum on the topic Stem Cell Therapies: Where are we now, and where are we heading, where members of the public can hear about, and discuss, cutting edge developments in stem cell therapies.

The Forum will be chaired by eminent obstetrician and researcher, Professor Euan Wallace, with a panel including stem cell pioneer, Professor Alan Trounson (Hudson Institute), and Professor John Rasko (clinical haemotologist, University of Sydney).

The Forum will explore topics including current and potential stem cell treatments and trials as well as the regulatory environment in which clinicians currently operate in this growing area. The Forum will be moderated by the founder and past chair of the Australasian Society for Stem Cell Research, Dr Susan Hawes. Questions and public and participation in the discussion are welcome.

Leading Ritchie Centre researchers, and invited speakers, will present their ground-breaking research during the Colloquium on topics including clinical applications of stem cells and biomatrices, fertility and infertility and the use of stem cells in women’s and paediatric health.

“Our scientists are pioneering a number of Phase I and Phase II clinical trials, including using mesenchymal stem cells in neurosurgery, multiple sclerosis and liver fibrosis,” Professor Jenkin, Research Group Head, Cell Therapy and Regenerative Medicine at the Ritchie Centre.

“We are also using amnion cells, taken from the amniotic membrane of the placenta, to treat preterm lung disease and liver cirrhosis, and umbilical cord blood stem cells in the treatment and prevention of cerebral palsy.

“We are one of the few centres to fully utilise these placental stem cells in clinical trials,” he said.

Register or find out more details

SCS Travel Grant - midyear round - applications now open

Under the Faculty Travel Grant Scheme 2016, the School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health has been allocated funds sufficient for 10 travel grants of $1000 each.  This grant is to be used to support early to mid-career researchers (Levels A-C) for their international conference travel, and allocation is contingent upon abstract acceptance.  We currently have 7 more travel grants on offer, and now wish to invite applications from eligible SCS staff via the attached form.   Please read the attached guidelines here, and submit your application (attached here) by Friday 26th August to jinleng.graham@monash.edu

Applications will be jointly assessed by the SCS Executive and you will be notified of the result of your application.

Note: Only salaried staff of School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health are eligible to apply.

MHTP Infectious and Inflammatory Diseases Theme Special Seminar: TODAY 9 August

12:00 - 1:00pm, Seminar Room 1, Level 2, TRF Building

Prof Branch Moody
Professor of Medicine
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Harvard Medical School
Harvard Club of Australia Fellow

CD1-Reactive T cells Mediate Human Response to Tuberculosis Infection

After more than two decades of focus on T cell recognition of MHC-peptide, immunologists were surprised to learn that T cell receptors recognize lipid antigens bound to CD1 proteins.  Emphasizing recently published and unpublished data, the talk explains that many lipids are displayed by cellular CD1 proteins and describes ex vivo T cell responses detected by CD1 tetramers in tuberculosis patients.  These studies provide several further surprises and a broader view of T cell function that includes response to cellular lipids.  

Originally from Irving, Texas, Dr. Moody is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and serves as physician and immunologist at Harvard Medical School.  His laboratory focuses on basic and applied research on how human T cells and macrophages respond to infection in human tuberculosis disease. This work is supported by the NIH Tuberculosis Research Unit Network, the Pew Foundation, the Burroughs Welcome Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

A light lunch is served prior to the seminar at 11:45am in the seminar room foyer, level 2, TRF Building.

Further information available from CID Weekly Seminar Series website [http://www.med.monash.edu.au/scs/medicine/cid/seminar-series.html

Grand Round Presentation - Neurology state of the art lecture -10 August

Unit: Neurology             
Presenters: Dr Rachel Newby
Topic:  “Functional dystonia and the borderland between neurology and psychiatry”
Date: Wednesday 10 August 2016
Time: 12.30pm to 1.30pm
Venue: Main Lecture Theatre, Monash Medical Centre, Clayton

“What genome wide association studies can tell us about the aetiology of breast cancer” 11 August

12-1 pm, 11 August, Lecture Theatre 1, Monash Medical Centre.

Presented by Prof Georgia Chenevix-Trench, 
NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow
Head of the Cancer Genetics Laboratory, Queensland Institute of Medical Research,Professor in the Division of Health Sciences,University of Queensland

Professor Georgia Chenevix-Trench is a Senior Principal Research Fellow of the NHMRC, a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Sciences and of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences, and head of the Cancer Genetics Laboratory and the Department of Genetics and Computational Biology at the QIMR Berghofer in Brisbane. She is the author of more than 400 peer-reviewed papers, and has been instrumental in the collection of public resources such as kConFab, the Australian consortium for research into familial breast cancer. She is the leader of the Consortium of Investigators of Modifiers of BRCA1/2 (CIMBA), and a founding member of the Breast and Ovarian Cancer Association Consortia, which have identified almost 200 novel breast and ovarian cancer susceptibility loci since the advent of genome-wide association studies. A major focus of her current research is to work out the function of the alleles associated with cancer risk, and to identify their target genes.

Light refreshments to follow presentation outside the Lecture Theatre.

The Ritchie Centre Colloquium 25-26 August

Visit the Ritchie Colloquium website for all the program details and online registration
To register click here or contact caroline.menara@hudson.org.au or Tel: 03 8572 2877

2016 Faculty 3MT Final Competition 19 August

August Hudson Translation Workshop 19 August

Dr Sara Prickett
The August Hudson Translation Workshop will take place on Friday, August 19, from 1pm to 2pm in the TRF Level 6 Meeting Room.

The speakers will be: Dr Sara Prickett (Aravax Co-founder and COO) and A/Prof Chris Burns (MetaBioQ CEO and WEHI Laboratory Head).

Refreshments will be provided.
See flyer with details here.

Professional Conduct & Ethics presentation by Jodie Fox, 23 August

Please register here.

Faculty Research Week: Early Career Researcher Showcase 16-19 August

Dr Monique Kilkenny
Come and hear our Early Career Researchers talk about their latest research which has led to award-winning publications.  A series of seminars across various campuses during Research Week.

Tuesday 16th August 12:00 noon-1:00 pm
Department of Surgery Seminar Room, Level 5 Block E, School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health
Dr Janette Tong Identification and functional characterisation of a novel dopamine beta hydroxylase gene variant associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
Dr Monique Kilkenny Readmissions after stroke: Linked data from the Australian Stroke Clinical Registry and hospital databases

Tuesday 16th August 12 noon – 1:00pm
Lecture Theatre H3, 20 Chancellors Walk, Clayton
Dr Megan Spencer-Smith – Winner of the Jenny Redman Early Career Researcher Publication Prize for Psychological Sciences
Neonatal MRI is associated with future cognition and academic achievement in preterm children.
Dr Garron Dodd – Winner of the Robert Porter Early Career Researcher Publication Prize for Laboratory Based Sciences
Leptin and insulin act on POMC neurons to promote the browning of white fat

Wednesday 17th August 2:00pm - 3:00pm
Lecture Theatre, Level 5, Alfred Centre
Chair – Ingrid Hopper
Dr Carol Hodgson – Winner of the Henry Krum Early Researcher Publication Prize for Clinical Sciences
Early mobilisation and recovery in mechanically ventilated patients in the ICU: a bi-national, multi-centre prospective cohort study.
Dr Rosanne Freak-Poli - Positive affect is not associated with the incidence of cardiovascular disease: A population-based study of older persons.

Friday 19th August 3:00pm - 4:00pm
Lecture Theatre S13, 11 Rainforest Walk, Clayton
Dr Ian Harding – Winner of the Early Career Researcher Fellows Publication Prize for Non-Laboratory Based Research
Effective connectivity within the frontoparietal control network differentiates cognitive control and working memory.
Dr Sarah Atkinson – Winner of the Early Career Researcher Fellows Publication Prize for Laboratory Based Research
The Anopheles-midgut APN1 structure reveals a new malaria transmission-blocking vaccine epitope

Research Week ECR Showcase event at SCS 16 August

Register here:

Digital research skills development

Research Bazaar is a free University of Melbourne program aimed at connecting researchers with the best tools, workshops, expertise and the scholarly community.
Its training calendar has a distinctively 21st century flavour and is geared towards four main digital research approaches:

·         Data Vizards (Data Visualisations),
·         CADVenturers (Computer Aided Design & 3D Printing),
·         Data Miners (analysing large text data) and
·         Data Wranglers (working with numbers and performing data analysis)

Monash early career researchers have been invited to participate in ResBaz activities and potential collaborations. The main pages which may be of interest to you:
·         Homepage: http://melbourne.resbaz.edu.au/
·         Events and training calendar: http://melbourne.resbaz.edu.au/calendar

·         Sign-up: http://melbourne.resbaz.edu.au/participate

Writing and Communication resources

Writing and communication are essential aspects of the graduate research student training process.The following websites are a fantastic source of information to support students in the written and oral communication of their research. 

The Faculty website has just been updated, listing the variety of workshops and online resources available to students - http://www.med.monash.edu.au/research/graduate-research-support/resource/writing-comm.html?mc_cid=1f2b000201&mc_eid=7975c9d724

English Connect. If you want to improve and further develop your English language skills, join any of our English Connect programs. They're a fun, free way to meet and talk with other students, ask questions and share a learning experience - 

All students enrolled in Translational Research PhD Doctoral Program

You only need to complete TRM6002 prior to undertaking your Confirmation Milestone.

The second unit (an elective) can be undertaken any time prior to your thesis submission. 

Beyond Academia: Career Pathways After a PhD, 17 August

As part of our Faculty's Research Week events, you are invited to a Careers Night on Wednesday 17th August.  

This event is aimed at PhD and Early Career Researchers and will focus on career pathways other than academia.

A flyer for the event is attached here and you can register to attend here

Speakers include;
Dr Svetozar Kovacevic (Director Faculty Research Office), 
Dr Sarah Meacham (President, Australian Society for Medical Research), 

Dr Andrew Brockway (Director, Portfolio & Project Management, Seqirus)

Seeking children 5 - 10 years to participate in sleep research

The Ritchie Centre (TRC) is looking  for  children  between  the ages of  5  and  10  years to participate as a control group in research sleep studies.

The TRC is carrying out studies on the effect of breathing difficulties at night on learning and behaviour. We are looking for non-snoring 5-10 year old volunteers to serve as a comparison group to the children with sleep disordered breathing.

Children who participate will be asked to wear a watch-like device for one week to assess their usual sleep patterns. They will also participate in a learning and memory assessment and have an overnight sleep study ALL CONDUCTED IN YOUR OWN HOME. There will be no need to come into the laboratory. We will come to you.

What do you get  out of it? We will provide you with a full report of your child’s behaviour, learning and memory assessments so that you can see how they are developing in relation to their peers. We will also provide you with the report of the sleep study if you are interested.

The results from this study will determine if learning potential is intact in children with sleep disordered breathing and will provide new information regarding potential new non-surgical treatment strategies.

For further information please contact: Dr Sarah Biggs, The Ritchie Centre Phone: 9594 4759 Email: sarah.biggs@monash.edu
Or visit our information page at www.monashchildrenshospital.org

Airway Remodeling and Hyperreactivity in a Model of Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia and Their Modulation by IL-1Ra

Claudia Nold et al. published in the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology.

Read article here.

Neonatal infections: Case definition and guidelines for data collection, analysis, and presentation of immunisation safety data

Jim Buttery et al. published in Vaccine.

Read article here.

High-dose therapy and autologous stem cell transplantation may only be applicable to selected patients with secondary CNS diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

Stephen Opat et al. published in the British Journal of Haematology.

Read article here.

Maternal creatine supplementation during pregnancy prevents acute and long-term deficits in skeletal muscle after birth asphyxia: a study of structure and function of hind limb muscle in the spiny mouse.

Hayley Dickinson et al. published in Pediatric Research.

Read article here.

Review article: Effectiveness of ultra-brief interventions in the emergency department to reduce alcohol consumption: A systematic review.

Diana Egerton-Warburton et al. published in Emergency Medicine Australasia: EMA

Read article here.

Influence of fracture geometry on bone healing under locking plate fixations: A comparison between oblique and transverse tibial fractures

Peter Ebeling et al. published in Medical Engineering and Physics.

Read article here.

Decorin expression is decreased in first trimester placental tissue from pregnancies with small for gestation age infants at birth

Padma Murthi et al. published in Placenta.

Read article here.