Monday, 6 November 2017

Monash researchers show stem cells help back pain

Dr Idrees Sher
Neurosurgery research at Monash University focussing on stem cell regeneration to reduce back pain was recognised at the prestigious North American Spine Society annual meeting in Orlando, Florida last month.

Monash Health neurorsurgery registrars Dr Chris Daly (a Monash University PhD candidate) and Dr Idrees Sher (a Monash University Masters candidate) presented papers at the largest academic spine meeting and exhibition in the world.  Dr Sher won Best Science paper at the meeting.

Dr Idrees presented his research into mesenchymal precursor stem cells (MPCs) providing an alternative to surgery for disc degeneration and the management of discogenic lower back pain.  The study was published last month in the high impact The Spine Journal.

Research group leader at The Ritchie Centre (Monash University and the Hudson Institute of Medical Research) and Monash Health neurosurgeon Associate Professor Tony Goldschlager said the team is focusing on stem cell regeneration of the intervertebral disc.

“We have had success both in preclinical and clinical studies of being able to restore structure and function of the disc,” Associate Professor Goldschlager said.

“This reduces pain and improves quality of life for patients.”

“One challenge in our research has been detecting changes in the disc with MRI scans and Dr Sher’s award winning study has been able to study the disc using super high resolution (9.4T) MRI. This has produced some of the world’s first high quality images of the disc, with exquisite detail.”

In his study, Dr Sher used a number of investigation techniques including histology, mmunohistochemistry, polarised microscopy and MRI to demonstrate that MPCs provide a direct beneficial effect in the rate of repair and reconstitution in the degenerate and nutritionally compromised intervertebral discs during the first 4 weeks.

“We’ve shown MPCs provide an opportunity for earlier intervention and delay in the progression of disc degeneration,” Dr Sher said.

“Our findings provide novel insights in the actions of MPCs and support their use in degenerative disc disease, further paving the way for human trials.

Also at the annual scientific meeting in Orlando, colleague and Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Foundation for Surgery Richard Jepson Scholarship recipient Dr Daly presented his research into stem cells promoting disc healing following surgery.

“Lumbar discectomy is the most commonly performed spine surgery procedure worldwide and is very effective at relieving the symptoms of nerve compression, e.g. pain and weakness radiating down the leg, secondary to a slipped disc,” Dr Daly said.  

“However, the operation fails to reverse the underlying disc degeneration and as such, up to one third of patients will progress to suffer ongoing back pain and approximately one in seven will undergo further surgery.”

Dr Daly’s research demonstrated the ability of a type of adult stem cell from the bone marrow, when ‘primed’ by exposure to an arthritis medication, pentosan polysulfate, to promote regeneration of the intervertebral disc in preclinical models following discectomy surgery.  

“The treated disc appears healthier on MRI, biochemical, morphological and microscopic analysis then untreated discs following surgery,” Dr Daly said.  

“This study suggests the ability of these primed cells to promote disc healing following surgery in humans and will be investigated in a clinical trial in the near future.”

This research was carried out at the Monash Health Translation Precinct (MHTP), a collaboration of Monash University Departments of Surgery, Neurosurgery, Monash Imaging and Monash Biomedical imaging and the Hudson Institute.

Suicide prevention app developed by Monash University a finalist in VicHealth Awards

Dr Glenn Melvin
Dr Glenn Melvin has been named a finalist in the 2017 VicHealth Awards for his development of the suicide prevention app, BeyondNow in collaboration with BeyondBlue.

BeyondNow is a convenient and confidential free app that supports people experiencing suicidal thoughts or who are heading towards a suicidal crisis.

 “The app is designed to support people who struggle with thoughts of suicide. It provides a place to document coping strategies and support people so they can navigate through a crisis,” said Dr Melvin.

“I'm very pleased about the nomination and I hope that it provides BeyondNow with additional exposure and allows it to reach more people.”

Since its launch in March 2016, more than 33,000 people have downloaded the BeyondNow app and it has been adopted by a number of health networks, including Monash Health.

Dr Melvin said he is very excited about what the future might hold for this field.

“I believe smartphone apps have untapped potential in supporting and connecting people with the help that they need and I look forward to ongoing collaborations with beyondblue on BeyondNow,”
Winners will be announced on Tuesday 5 December 2017 at the VicHealth Awards Ceremony at Melbourne Museum.

In other news, Dr Melvin was recently recognised for his research efforts, receiving an academic promotion to Associate Professor effective January 2018.

A senior lecturer at the Centre for Development Psychology and Psychiatry (CDPP), Dr Melvin is also an Honorary Associate Professor at the University of Warwick.

Dr Melvin’s research focuses on understanding high risk adolescent behaviours including suicide risk and school non-attendance.

“My aim is to develop and evaluate more effective methods of assessing these problems and intervening to reduce the impact on young people and their families during a sensitive developmental stage,” Dr Melvin said. 

For more information about the 2017 VicHealth Awards, visit www/

Monash neuroinflammation research recognised at national conference

Dr Shu Wen Wen, Raymond Shim, SJ Shen
Monash research was recognised recently at the Australian Vascular Biology Soceity (AVBS) conference in Queensland, with researchers from the Neuroinflammation research group in the Centre for Inflammatory Diseases taking out the lion’s share of the awards.

PhD students Raymond Shim and SJ Shen, and early career researcher Dr Shu Wen Wen each received awards for their outstanding research.

Attending his very first conference, second year PhD student Raymond was the AVBS student oral presentation winner.

Raymond is investigating how injury to the brain after stroke causes the immune suppression that predisposes patients to infection.

“Stroke is a leading contributor of death and disability around the world, and while stroke is mostly associated with neurological consequences, infection is extremely prevalent and can be fatal to stroke patients,” Raymond said.

“We hope to identify pathways that the brain and central nervous system can induce immune changes following cerebral damage.”

“If we can identify a pathway in which immune suppression is induced by the brain, we can potentially develop therapeutics that reduce immune suppression and prevent infectious complications in stroke patients.”

Fellow PhD student SJ Shen received the Student presentation runners-up prize for his presentation into how a certain type of immune cell (neutrophils) affects the outcome of Ulcerative Colitis.

“Prior research has shown that neutrophil numbers are associated with the severity of Ulcerative Colitis, however, we’ve demonstrated that this is not the case,” SJ said.

“In fact, we found neutrophils can function in an anti-inflammatory manner and help suppress disease progression. My studies highlight the complexity of the role of neutrophils in disease.”

SJ said there have been clinical trials that used drugs to try and prevent immune cells (including neutrophils) from entering the colon but his team’s discovery shows that this may not be the best approach.

“Instead, development of drugs that can change neutrophils to be good at suppressing colitis will provide an avenue for future treatments for patients suffering from Ulcerative Colitis.”

Meanwhile, ECR Dr Shu Wen Wen received a “Highly Commended Award” for her ECR Oral Presentation.

Dr Wen said that while the elderly are known to suffer more debilitating outcomes after stroke, it is unclear if post-stroke infection is a major contributing factor.

“My project aims to understand if the development of infections after stroke is age-dependent, and if so, to assess mechanisms that render the elderly more susceptible,” Dr Wen said.

“Our studies indicate that stroke lowers our overall immunity in an age-dependent manner, thereby increasing the chances of contracting bacterial infections.”

“The knowledge gained from this project will inform clinicians on the potential benefits of incorporating therapies that can enhance patient immunity to reduce the incidence of post-stroke infection.”

Neuroinflammation group head, Dr Connie Wong said it was a fantastic achievement for each of them to be selected to present their research in the oral format at this annual meeting, but also to win awards was a great reflection of their hard work.

The three award recipients said they were honoured to have received their awards and to have been recognised for their work, and were extremely grateful for Dr Wong’s ongoing support.  

Alliance interdisciplinary research tackles critical issues around food insecurity

Ms Sue Kleve, Dr Claire Palermo, Dr Martine Barons
Access to a safe and affordable food supply is a basic human right under numerous covenants of international law, and yet many households in high income countries are unable to feed themselves or their families or experience stress and anxiety about their ability to put sufficient and nutritionally adequate food on the table.
In May 2016 the Monash Warwick Alliance funded Dr Martine Barons, Director of the Applied Statistics and Risk Unit (AS&RU), Warwick University and Associate Professor Claire Palermo and Sue Kleve, Lecturer, Nutrition, Dietetics and Food, Monash University to bring together a team of expert researchers who were working in disparate yet complementary academic fields on a common theme of food insecurity. Leveraging their complementary expertise, they were able to establish an international research agenda to assist in gathering evidence to address food security in high income countries.

MHTP Research Week is NEXT WEEK. ALL staff and students encouraged to attend.

All staff and students are expected to experience MHTP Research Week in the same way as being at a conference, when everyday work gets left for later and the conference becomes the work of the day. 

Other than clinical work, student exams, or safety issues, SCS expects staff and students to allocate time in their schedules to attend the entire program next week at MMC:

Mon 13 Nov
10am -12pm
Poster sessions
MMC and Monash Children’s Hospital
Tues 14 Nov
9am – 5pm
Official opening, keynote speaker Laureate Professor Peter Doherty, presentations, ECR speed networking event
TRF seminar rooms 1 & 2
Tues 14 Nov
5pm – 6.30pm
Cocktail reception and prize awards
TRF seminar rooms 1 & 2
Wed 15 Nov
9am – 5.30pm
Keynote speaker Dr Andrea Douglas, presentations, PhD student showcase symposium and prize awards
TRF seminar rooms 1 & 2

Full program is available HERE.   

All sessions are FULLY catered.

MHTP Research Week ECR networking event

As part of the MHTP Research Week (10th-17th of November), the SCS-Hudson ECR committees are happy to announce the Speed Networking Event, a new opportunity for ECRs to receive substantial research funding, which is scheduled for Tuesday the 14th of November, 3.40pm - 5.00pm

The format will be casual, one-on-one conversations with other ECRs to find common interests and unearth potential novel research ideas. The committees will ask for EOIs with invitations for full applications after an initial round of selection.

We are very pleased to announce that $10,000 is currently available, kindly sponsored by the SCS and Hudson Institute.

Please use this link to register as spaces are limited: 

Please come and support the ECR community and be in the running for the research grant. We look forward to seeing you there!

P.S. ECRs are those who are within 10 years post-PhD completion.

SCS trivia quiz

New website launch - supervisor connect

ARC DP19 & DE19 Researcher One-2-One Advice Sessions with the MRO

With the ARC Discovery Projects and DECRA schemes opening on November 13 and January 8 respectively, you may have questions regarding eligibility, staying clear of the Medical Research Policy, how best to address the selection criteria, or you may need a clarification of the Funding Rules as relevant to your particular scenario.

Whatever it may be, the MRO has a wealth of experience with ARC applications and is well situated to offer advice.  We therefore welcome you to book a one-2-one (O2O) session with us to discuss your application. These tailored face-to-face sessions allow you to fully and easily explore the issue, and if necessary the ARC team will follow up with further information.

These 20-minute sessions proved popular last year and so this year we are offering sixty sessions total, over 3 weeks, in December and January:

Dec 13-15 (Wed-Fri)
Dec 18-20 (Mon-Wed)
Jan 8-12 (Mon-Fri)

In order to book one of these sessions: 
We ask you to first complete a short Google Form, so that we can prepare and help you get the most out of the session. At the end of the Google Form, you'll find a link to a Doodle poll, where you'll be able to book a time slot. Please go HERE to complete the Google Form and then a booking.

ARC Centre of Excellence - Notice of Intent (NOI)

In advance of the release of funding rules, Monash researchers wishing to participate on an ARC Centre of Excellence submission in the forthcoming round are requested to submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) to the Monash Research Office (MRO) by 30 November 2017.  

The NOI process provides visibility of the landscape and enables resource allocation planning for senior University leadership.  In addition, for Monash-led proposals it will help MRO to resource  proposal development assistance.  

NOIs are requested for: 
  • Monash-led Centres - please could the proposed Centre Director (or delegate) complete an NOI.  Only one NOI is required per Centre irrespective of how may Monash CI's are participating (the NOI form requests all participants be named).
  • Non-Monash led Centres - if you have been invited to participate in a Centre of Excellence hosted at another university, please complete an NOI.  If you are aware of other Monash CIs participating in the same Centre, only one NOI need be submitted.  However, if there are duplicates submitted for the same proposed Centre, they will be consolidated after the NOI closing date.
At this stage we understand that there are many unknowns and that a Centre proposal may change considerably between now and submission.  Revisions to the NOI will be permitted at a later date, particularly after the Funding Rules release in May 2018.

CIs can access the NOI form here:  

The NOI round opens today at 10am and closes at midnight 30 November 2017.

Questions should be directed to the MRO ARC Team (

Monash Haematology Journal Club, “Molecular Diagnostics of AML at Monash Health”, 8 November

7.30am Breakfast & 7.45am Presentation
Monash Medical Centre, Level 2 - Lecture Theatre 3

Presenter: Dr Olga Motorna

Grand Rounds, “Medical Cannabis: pharmacology, evidence, issues”, 8 November

Supportive & Palliative Care presents

Dr Grace Walpole:  “Medical Cannabis: pharmacology, evidence, issues”

8 November, 12.30-1.30pm, Lecture Theatre 3, MMC

Department of Medicine Scientific Seminar - Thursday 9 November

Thursday 9 November, 12.00pm – 13.00pm
MMC-TRF Level 2, seminar room 3
Light lunch included.

Associate Professor Kylie Gray presents "“Vitamin D as a treatment for autism”

Dr Padma Murthi presents "“Is the placenta the origin of the unresolved burden of obstetric complications on the developing brain?”

A/Professor Gray works in the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at Monash University as an Associate Professor. She has over 15 years’ experience in both research and clinical experience in autism diagnosis and assessment. Her research interests are focused on (i) early screening, assessment and diagnosis, (ii) behaviour and emotional problems, mental health, family wellbeing, (iii) evidence-based treatments.

Dr Padma Murthi is an internationally recognised placentologist. Her specific research expertise is in studying human placental development and function within nutrition, endocrinology and obstetrics research. Dr Murthi’s projects are focused on translational outcomes in obstetrics research. Her major research interests lie primarily in understanding the molecular mechanisms of placental insufficiency leading to human fetal growth restriction.

“The Orchestration of Life and Death by Bacterial Gut Pathogens”, 9 November

Hudson seminars present Dr Jaclyn Pearson
NHMRC Peter Doherty Early Career Research Fellowship and Research Group Head in the Centre for Innate Immunity and Infectious Diseases

Thursday 9 November, 12-1pm, Seminar rooms 1&2, TRF

Dr Jaclyn Pearson was recently appointed as a lab head within the Centre of Innate Immunity and Infectious Diseases at the Hudson Institute of Medical Research. A microbiologist by training, her broad research area is host-pathogen interactions, in particular the mechanisms by which bacterial gut pathogens, including enteropathogenic E. coli and Salmonella interfere with innate immune signalling in the gut to survive and cause disease.

Jaclyn has published several papers describing the mechanism by which bacterial virulence proteins specifically modify immune factors and has thus provided a number of insights into host processes that are not only essential for controlling infection but also for maintaining gut homeostasis. Her most recent work addresses the role of programmed cell death in the gut during infection and the implications of dysregulated immune responses for microbiome composition and the development of inflammatory disorders of the bowel.

Christie Sun's milestone review, 'Effect of a pre-maturation period with C-type natriuretic peptide on maturation, fertilisation and subsequent embryo development of immature oocytes from unstimulated young and older mice', 13 November

                                                  All staff and students are invited to Christie Sun's milestone review.

13 November, 10am-12pm, The Ritchie Centre Seminar Room.

The aim of this research is to examine whether cAMP/cGMP modulator, CNP, can support a prolonged pre-IVM culture phase, and to investigate if maturation, fertilization and developmental competence of resultant embryos regardless of oocytes age.

Primary supervisor: Dr Mulyoto Pangestu, 
Secondary supervisors: Dr Sally Catt and Dr Kiri Bailey.

Implementation Science Masterclass, 23-24 November

Monash Accelerator Showcase, 20 November

Monday 20 November, 6-8pm, Level 7, Monash University, 271 Collins Street, Melbourne

We're super excited to showcase the incredible founders of our 2017 Accelerator program. Ten startups were selected from 162 applications, and each awarded $10,000, office space, intensive mentoring and professional services. Over the past three months the founders have worked tirelessly to progress their startups in diverse industries, from social enterprise to VR technology platforms and everything in between.

The Showcase is designed to present our founders to the broader startup ecosystem, with an audience of mentors, investors, founders, industry experts and aspiring entrepreneurs. If you have ever wondered about entrepreneurship as a career path, or know a friend or family member who would benefit from immersion in the startup ecosystem, this is the perfect way to see what it's all about and meet key members of the community.

Entry is free however seating is strictly limited so make sure to REGISTER NOW to secure your spot. 
More information HERE.

No flyers in lifts please

Head of School Professor Eric Morand requests no flyers or advertising material of any kind be placed in any lifts throughout the Monash Health Translation Precinct (MHTP).

Thank you.

The revolutionary ‘single injection’ treatment helping back pain sufferers

Tony Goldschlager on 9 News.

Watch story HERE.

BDNF Val66Met Genotype Interacts With a History of Simulated Stress Exposure to Regulate Sensorimotor Gating and Startle Reactivity

Rachel Hill et al. published in Schizophrenia Bulletin.

Read article here.

BDNF haplo-insufficiency impairs high-frequency cortical oscillations in mice

Rachel Hill et al. published in the European Journal of Neuroscience.

Read article here.

The BDNF Val66Met polymorphism regulates glucocorticoid-induced corticohippocampal remodeling and behavioral despair

Rachel Hill et al. published in Translational Psychiatry.

Read article here.

Estradiol and raloxifene modulate hippocampal gamma oscillations during a spatial memory task

Rachel Hill et al. published in Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Read article here.

The effect of sex and prematurity on the cardiovascular baroreflex response in sheep

Graeme Polglase et al. published in Experimental Physiology.

Read article here.

Antimicrobial resistance in UK neonatal units: neonIN infection surveillance network

Jim Buttery et al. published in ADC Fetal & Neonatal.

Read article here.

Factors associated with patient activation in an Australian population with comorbid diabetes and chronic kidney disease: a cross-sectional study

Peter Kerr, Kevan Polkinghorne et al. published in BMJ Open.

Read article here.

Transitioning from a single-site pilot project to a state-wide regional telehealth service: The experience from the Victorian Stroke Telemedicine programme

Dominique Cadilhac et al. published in the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare

Read article here.

Mechanism of Interferon-Stimulated Gene Induction in HIV-1-Infected Macrophages

Paul Hertzog et al. published in the Journal of Virology.

Read article here.

Comparative restoration of acute liver failure by menstrual blood stem cells compared with bone marrow stem cells in mice model

Caroline Gargett et al. published in Cytotherapy.

Read article here.