Monday, 4 June 2018

Abigail goes home thanks to Monash doctors

Baby Abigail, 2 days old

Abigail Meijers was born on 2 December 2017 at just under 27 weeks, weighing a mere 422g—the same size and weight as a large tin of tuna.  While most babies born so small don’t survive, Abigail has a bright future thanks to the doctors and researchers at the Monash Health Translation Precinct (MHTP).

Abigail was born with a condition known as fetal growth restriction. She now weighs a healthy 3.5kg, and having spent all of her life so far at the Monash Children’s Hospital, she went home last week.

Fetal or intrauterine growth restriction (FGR/IUGR) affects more than 10% of pregnancies worldwide, and has significant implications for short-term and long-term wellbeing of the infant.

Monash Children’s Hospital neonatologist Dr Atul Malhotra said FGR is strongly associated with stillbirth, preterm birth, and in newborn survivors, increased risk of developing complications, including adverse neurodevelopment in childhood.

Dr Atul Malhotra with Abigail's parents Owen Peters and
Taryn Meijers leaving Monash Children's Hospital
“The leading cause of FGR is placental insufficiency, with the placenta failing to adequately meet the increasing oxygen and nutritional needs of the growing fetus,” said Dr Malhotra, who is also a research fellow at Monash University and the Hudson Institute of Medical Research.

“When the fetus is deprived of oxygen, there is a decrease in fetal growth and a redistribution of blood flow preferentially to the brain.”

However, this does not ensure normal brain development.

“Early detection of brain injury in FGR is crucial, allowing for the prediction of short and long term neurodevelopmental consequences,” Dr Malhotra said.

Dr Atul Malhotra is investigating diagnostic tools from human and preclinical studies for the detection and assessment of brain injury in FGR fetuses and neonates.  He hopes that increased and early detection of brain injury will lead to interventions to improve long-term outcomes for these babies.

“Optimising neurodevelopmental outcomes for FGR infants requires a collaborative approach including neurological examination, imaging in the neonatal period, movement and behaviour testing,” Dr Malhotra said.

Baby Abigail has benefitted from the research and treatment provided at MHTP.
“Her lungs are almost normal and her brain is also looking good, although she’ll obviously need close follow up,” Dr Malhotra said.

Not many babies at her weight survive—she has not only survived, but she looks pretty good and has a bright future.”

Watch 7 News video on You Tube

Improved treatment hope for lung disease patients

Monash research, enabled by two recent grants, may lead to better treatment options for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cystic fibrosis.

Monash University’s Associate Professor Paul King, a respiratory and sleep physician at Monash Health, was awarded nearly $100,000 to further his research into debilitating lung disease.

Associate Professor King received $50,000 from the Australian Respiratory Council (a near-miss NHMRC project grant) to study the role of viral influenza in extracellular trap formation in the lung.  He was also awarded $45,000 by the 65 km ride for cystic fibrosis Foundation to study how cells kill bacteria in the lungs of children with cystic fibrosis.

Associate Professor Paul King
Associate Professor King said a collaboration between Monash Lung and Sleep and the Centre for Inflammatory Diseases has established a unique level of expertise to study extracellular traps in lung tissue in both human and animal models.

“Extracellular traps are made when immune cells, triggered by the presence of bacteria, shoot out their DNA in a web-like form,” Associate Professor King said. 

“DNA is normally stored safely inside the nucleus of cells, however in some circumstances, cells can use their DNA to fight infections by throwing out traps to capture and kill bacteria.”

These DNA fibres are known as neutrophil extracellular traps, or NETs. However there is another form of extracellular trap made by macrophages called METs which are have not been previously recognised

“Although METs trap and kill bacteria, the expression of these extracellular traps is an inflammatory process that may cause tissue damage in chronic diseases,” Associate Professor King said.

“We’ve known for some time that NETs work as a defence mechanism in other parts of the body, however, this is the first time we’re studying macrophage extracellular traps in the lungs of humans and animals.”

“This has the potential for us to understand for the first time how the body fights inflammation in the lungs, and therefore may lead to treatments for lung diseases including COPD.”

World first study may hold key to preventing deadly lung disease in premature babies

Professor Arvind Sehgal
Every year in Australia and New Zealand  more than 1000 premature babies (born before 28 weeks) develop chronic lung disease – making them more at risk of a longer hospital stay, of returning home requiring oxygen, re-hospitalization and dying.

These risks are more than doubled if the baby has fetal growth restriction (FGR), ie are born smaller even accounting for their premature birth. Yet, until now, it has not been known why the lungs in FGR infants are not well developed and FGR has such a profound effect on premature babies developing the potentially deadly lung disease.

Now a world first study led by Professor Arvind Sehgal, from the Department of Pediatrics at Monash University, used high frequency ultrasound to show that growth restricted infants have poorly developed blood vessels in their lungs—compared to well grown but premature infants.

 “These are blood vessels that have not developed well in these young infants, they are thick and stiff,” Professor Sehgal said.

“Normal vessel development is paramount for subsequent normal lung development.”

The study, published last week in the Journal of Physiology, looked at 40 preterm babies born between 28 and 32 weeks gestation. Twenty of these babies also had a birth-weight in the 10th lowest percentile. The researchers performed a single high resolution echocardiogram to measure lung vessel thickness and stiffness.

According to Professor Sehgal, the study “opens up avenues for medications which could be given to pregnant mothers (before birth) as well as to newborn babies after birth to address this deadly disease.”

“Given hundreds of babies across the region are affected by chronic lung disease every year; the potential to improve clinical outlook in these critically ill babies is immense,” he said.

Simple ‘sleep hormone’ skin patch could protect at-risk newborns

Dr James Aridas
A simple, cheap treatment of a skin patch containing a naturally occurring ‘sleep hormone’ could soon help to protect newborn babies from brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation at birth.

A recent study, led by PhD student Dr James Aridas and Associate Professor Suzanne Miller in The Ritchie Centre, Monash University, is paving the way for a treatment that could transform the way babies starved of oxygen at birth are treated around the world.
The preclinical findings have been published in the May 2018 issue of Journal of Pineal Research.
“Being born without enough oxygen at birth (perinatal asphyxia) can cause death or lead to severe brain damage and it affects millions of babies each year. There is currently no available treatment that can be used to protect the brain in most of these babies,” Dr Aridas says.

CID/CIIID Joint Seminar, Michael Gantier and Josh Ooi, 5 June

Tuesday 5 June, 12-1pm, TRF seminar room 1    

Modulation of host-pathogen interactions by nucleic acids
Dr Michael Gantier, ARC Future Fellow, Centre for Innate Immunity and Infectious Diseases

Summary: DNA and RNA not only carry our genetic information, but are also critical regulators of immune responses to pathogens in all eukaryotes. This system universally relies on the capacity of the host to distinguish its own nucleic acids from those of the pathogens. My research program over the past decade has helped understand how mammalian cells selectively identify pathogenic RNA, and more recently, toxic DNA. These findings have had direct translational implications for several infectious and auto-immune diseases. Here I will present some of our recent efforts to better define the role of nucleic acids sensing during bacterial infection, and how the manipulation of these pathways can result in host protection.

Bio: The central aim of Dr Michael Gantier’s research is to define how nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) modulate immune responses. Following on his PhD studies on RNA interference in Dublin (Ireland), he joined the laboratory of Prof Bryan Williams in 2006, to define the interaction of small RNAs with the innate immune system. This led to the discovery of structural determinants of RNAs which underlie their capacity to activate, or inhibit immune responses, resulting in the rational design of molecules with potential therapeutic application in cancer and autoinflammatory diseases. More recently, his laboratory discovered how immune responses could be engaged in damaged cells, with implications in infection, immunity and cancer. In addition, Dr Gantier made important findings regarding how a class of endogenous small RNAs, known as microRNAs, persist in cells to regulate inflammation. This has led to the identification of microRNA sequence variations, which control microRNA stability and could be used as novel disease biomarkers.  In 2015, following the award of an ARC Future Fellowship and several NHMRC project grants, he was promoted to lead his own research group in the Hudson Institute of Medical Research.

How Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) polymorphisms affect the risk of developing autoimmune disease
Dr Joshua Ooi, Al and Val Rosenstrauss Fellow, Centre for Inflammatory Diseases

Summary: Inheritance of specific HLA genes can predispose to, or protect from, certain autoimmune diseases. It is, however, unclear how polymorphisms within these HLA genes confer disease risk. Using Goodpasture’s disease as a model autoimmune disease, Dr. Ooi, in collaboration with the Rossjohn and La Gruta laboratories at the Biomedicine Discovery Institute, showed that the HLA-autoepitope conformation dictates a pro- or anti- inflammatory autoimmune response. This work, published in Nature, is one of the first to provide a causal link between HLA polymorphisms and autoimmune disease. Based on his work in identifying the T cell epitopes in autoimmune vasculitic diseases, Dr. Ooi received the Al and Val Rosentrauss Fellowship and alongside mentor Prof. Richard Kitching received his first NHMRC Project grant this year to develop T cell targeted therapies for autoimmune diseases.

Grand Rounds, “The Pipeline of Indigenous Health Professionals”, 6 June

Ms Karinda Taylor
Wednesday 6 June, 12.30-1.30pm, Lecture Theatre 1, Monash Medical Centre

Aboriginal Health  PRESENTS

Ms Karinda Taylor
Monash Health’s Principal Advisor, Indigenous Health   &

Professor Karen Adams
Monash University and Friends

“The Pipeline of Indigenous Health Professionals”

Hudson seminar: 'From protein domain dynamics to new diagnostic markers for gamete selection that enhance human assisted reproduction success', 7 June

This week's Hudson seminar will be held in Seminar Rooms 1 & 2,  TRF Building on  Thursday 7th June, 12pm-1pm.

Our speaker will be Dr Katerina Hortova, PhD.
Group of Reproductive Biology, Institute of Biotechnology, Czech Academy of Sciences, BIOCEV, Czech Republic; Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic

She will be presenting 'From protein domain dynamics to new diagnostic markers for gamete selection that enhance human assisted reproduction success'

Dr Hortova’s scientific work has been widely recognised in the field of Reproductive Biology with several key publications. She, with her colleagues, described sperm cooperation for the very first time in rodent and it was published in Nature (2002). The current major achievement is a discovery of the interaction between CD46 and beta1 subunit of integrins in sperm during sperm capacitation and acrosome reaction suggesting that these proteins are an important part of sperm network involved in gamete interaction. Published results are being of interest beyond the field of Reproduction, covering areas of neuro-physiology, immunology, cell biology and even cancer research, by stretching the understanding of the membrane fusion process in general published in Sci Rep (2016). The published data has also a great value for detection new aspects contributing to ever-so-growing human infertility, and these proteins plan to be part of new detection kits used in Centres of assisted reproduction, which is the current main focus of her team.

A light lunch and refreshments will follow this presentation. 

Google Impact Challenge Australia 2018 - CALL FOR EOI APPLICATIONS

The Google Impact Challenge Australia 2018 is now open for applications. The Challenge searches for and supports innovative ideas for change that are making an impact locally and globally.  Ten Finalists will be selected out of which:
  • 4 Winners will receive $1,000,000
  • 6 Finalists will receive $250,000
Since only one application per organisation is allowed, the MRO will be conducting an Expression of Interest (EOI) process.  Interested applicants must submit answers to questions 26-31, 33, 35 and 37-41 of the attached application form and submit to the MRO ( by 9am on 22 June 2018.  Further details are provided in the message below.

Link to rules for the Google Impact Challenge (copy also attached).

Link to PDF copy of application form for the Google Impact Challenge.

Link to 2016 winners of the Google Impact Challenge.

Should you have questions, please contact

Australian Financial Review (AFR) Higher Education Awards 2018 - CALL FOR EOI APPLICATIONS

Since only one application per institution per award category is allowed, the MRO is conducting an internal EOI ranking process.

The internal EOI submission closing date is 8am on 22 June 2018.

For queries, please contact

VicHealth ARC Linkage Project Grant Round Now Open!

The VicHealth ARC Linkage Project Grant Round is now open.  This scheme allows researchers to partner with VicHealth and apply for funding of large scale projects.  Proposed projects must focus on health promotion and public health R&D.

The ARC submission closing date for EOI applications is 1pm on 19 July 2018.

For queries, please contact

United Energy Rectification Works- Kanooka Grove Sunday 10th June

The energy Supply Authority has notified us that they are planning to work on the High Voltage Network in the area on Sunday 10th June 2018. As a result of these works, the High Voltage feed coming from Kanooka Grove will be shut down from 8am to 3pm this Sunday. 

Impacts to the precinct will vary depending on building, summarised below:

Block E and TRF

Impact: None

Hospital buildings are fed via two independent High Voltage Feeds, one from Kanooka Grove and one from Wright Street. Monash Health will switch the electrical load from Kanooka Grove to Wright Street at 7:30am on Sunday and return the feed back at 3:30pm on the same day, there will be No loss of power during the switching operations.

There will be generator back-up for the duration of the works if required. 

Building 261 (MIMR/HUDSON/IRD) and Building 262 (MHRP)

Impact: Loss of General Power
Power Available: Generator Power ONLY.

Both of these buildings are fed Only from the Kanooka Grove feed, so they will lose power during the duration of the works.

Power will only be distributed through the generator via the RED coloured power points 

What can staff do to help ?

1. On Friday 8th June to avoid potential damage to computers and non essential lab equipment, please ensure that all non essential (white power points) are turned off in office and lab areas.

2. Please ensure that essential equipment (fridges/freezers and anything else that is deemed essential to run over the weekend) is connected to an essential (RED power point).  If you are not sure ask us for assistance.

3. Reduce the amount of non essential equipment (pipette chargers, block heaters, centrifuges, vortex mixers etc) plugged into a red power point, these do not need to be on and will increase the load on the generator increasing fuel consumption.

4. Organise your week so that you do not need to come into work this Sunday.

Area Managers:

1. Please ensure your fridge freezers are plugged into essential power, please let us know if you need help

2. ensure this message is repeated at your lab meetings.

Any questions, please ask

Melbourne discovery may help prevent tiny babies developing chronic lung disease

Arvind Sehgal reported in the Herald Sun.

Exploring the learning experiences of neonatal nurses with in-situ and off-site simulation-based education: A qualitative study

Atul Malhotra et al. published in the Journal of  Neonatal Nursing.

Dietary intake of nutrients involved in one‐carbon metabolism and risk of urothelial cell carcinoma: A prospective cohort study

Melissa Southey et al. published in the International Journal of Cancer.

Heritable methylation marks associated with breast and prostate cancer risk

Melissa Southey et al. published in The Prostate.

Sleeping Well Trial: Increasing the effectiveness of treatment with continuous positive airway pressure using a weight management program in overweight adults with obstructive sleep apnoea—A stepped wedge randomised trial protocol

Helen Truby et al. published in Nutrition & Dietetics.

Safety of pazopanib and sunitinib in treatment-naive patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma: Asian versus non-Asian subgroup analysis of the COMPARZ trial

Arun Azad et al. published in the Journal of Hematology & Oncology.

Deterioration of Cortical Bone Microarchitecture: Critical Component of Renal Osteodystrophy Evaluation

Peter Ebeling et al. published in the American Journal of Nephrology.

Does biological sex impact intestinal epithelial injury, small intestine permeability, gastrointestinal symptoms and systemic cytokine profile in response to exertional-heat stress?

Rhiannon Snipe, Ricardo Costa published in the Journal of Sports Sciences.