QIMR Berghofer http://www.qimrberghofer.edu.au Medical Research Institute Fri, 16 Feb 2018 06:48:26 +0000 en-AU hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.4 Researchers build tiny DNA nanorobots to block cancer growth http://www.qimrberghofer.edu.au/2018/02/researchers-build-tiny-dna-nanorobots-block-cancer-growth/ Mon, 12 Feb 2018 20:36:06 +0000 http://www.qimrberghofer.edu.au/?p=12271 Scientists have successfully designed tiny nanorobots made of DNA and protein that can be targeted directly at tumours to stop them from growing. The study was led by researchers at the National Centre for Nanoscience and Technology in Beijing and the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences and involved Professor Greg Anderson, head of the…

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Scientists have successfully designed tiny nanorobots made of DNA and protein that can be targeted directly at tumours to stop them from growing.

The study was led by researchers at the National Centre for Nanoscience and Technology in Beijing and the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences and involved Professor Greg Anderson, head of the Chronic Disorders Research Program at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

It has been published in Nature Biotechnology today.

Professor Anderson said the nanorobots were made using a technique called “DNA origami”, where specially constructed sheets of DNA were folded up and bound together to form a tube-like structure.

He said the group embedded the blood-clotting agent thrombin within the nanorobots.

“Thrombin is a naturally-occurring protein that causes blood clots to form,” Professor Anderson said.

“This ability can be harnessed to kill tumour cells by developing a system where the thrombin only causes clots in the blood vessels that are feeding the tumour, and not elsewhere in the body.

“When that happens, the tumour cells no longer receive essential nutrients and they die.”

Professor Anderson said the nanorobots were designed so that thrombin was released only after it was “unlocked” by a particular protein found within the blood vessels of tumours.

“The nanorobot keeps the clotting agent disguised until it reaches the place where we want it to act. In this case, that’s the tumour,” he said.

“That’s why this is such a clever delivery method.”

Professor Anderson said it was a highly-innovative example of nanotechnology being used to target tumours.

“This approach is novel in the way the team has combined a number of existing but different elements of nanotechnology to enable the controlled and targeted delivery of the blood-clotting agent,” he said.

“It shows just what is possible with contemporary biomedical technology and hints at what may be the future of intelligent drug delivery.

“Methods like this could potentially be used to deliver a wide range of drugs, and even multiple drugs at once.

“There are really limitless combinations of technologies and drugs that could be tried.

“The applications of the technology are certainly not restricted to tumour development, either.”

The targeted nanorobots also proved highly effective at reducing the growth and spread of tumours with characteristics of breast cancer and melanoma in mice.

Professor Anderson said although the treatment was successful in laboratory tests, it was still some time before the strategy would be tested in humans.

“It is an extremely exciting first step, but more work needs to be done,” he said.

“The term ‘cancer’ covers a broad range of diseases and different types of cancer require different treatments, or combination of treatments.

“Nevertheless, the use of the DNA origami approach potentially provides a new tool that could be used to help achieve the ultimate goal of eradicating primary tumours and their metastases.”

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Lower temperature of body’s extremities makes virus-related arthritis worse http://www.qimrberghofer.edu.au/2018/02/lower-temperature-bodys-extremities-makes-virus-related-arthritis-worse/ Mon, 12 Feb 2018 20:34:49 +0000 http://www.qimrberghofer.edu.au/?p=12268 Scientists have discovered that arthritis caused by mosquito-borne viruses is worse in the limbs than the rest of the body because of their usually cooler temperature. Researchers from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute made the discovery while looking into how the immune system combats arthritic joint inflammation caused by Ross River virus and chikungunya virus.…

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Scientists have discovered that arthritis caused by mosquito-borne viruses is worse in the limbs than the rest of the body because of their usually cooler temperature.

Researchers from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute made the discovery while looking into how the immune system combats arthritic joint inflammation caused by Ross River virus and chikungunya virus.

QIMR Berghofer Inflammation Biology group leader Professor Andreas Suhrbier said arthritis from mosquito-borne viruses usually affected joints in the limbs, such as the arms, wrists, legs, ankles and feet.

He said the arthritis was debilitating and painful, lasting from weeks to many months.

“We’ve now worked out why these joints are so badly affected by inflammation,” Professor Suhrbier said.

“The bizarrely simple answer is because these joints in the limbs are usually a few degrees cooler than the rest of the body.”

He said the first line of defence used by the body to fight off a viral infection were cell proteins called type 1 interferons.

“What we have discovered is that interferons work optimally at 37C, which is the body’s normal temperature,” Professor Suhrbier said.

“However, we found that when the temperature is a few degrees cooler, this defence system works very poorly.”

Professor Suhrbier said when the limb temperature in mice was warmer, the anti-viral defence system was more effective at fighting off the virus.

He said the mice housed at 30C also had less severe arthritis than the mice housed at the standard 22C.

“This is the first time that ambient temperature has been shown to have such a dramatic effect on viral infections in warm-blooded animals,” Professor Suhrbier said.

“In the 1930s, an Australian nurse called Elizabeth Kenny pioneered a highly controversial limb-warming therapy for children suffering from polio, which became known as the ‘Kenny method’.

“Our findings would appear to vindicate the Kenny method. They also beg the question: Can the Kenny method of warming the limbs also potentially treat arthritis caused by Ross River virus and chikungunya virus?”

Professor Suhrbier said heat treatment would need to be started very early in the infection and how this related to humans would need to be established in future clinical investigations.

He said the findings also raised other questions.

“Older people, aged over 75 years, are the most at risk of death from chikungunya virus. Could this be because the body temperature in the elderly is often slightly lower?” he said.

“Do these findings also suggest that these viral diseases should be less severe in people who live in hot, tropical climates, like Far North Queensland?

“Unfortunately, a number of confounding factors such as the use of air-conditioning and better access to anti-inflammatory medications make this difficult to unravel.”

Professor Suhrbier said mosquito-borne viruses that caused outbreaks of rheumatic disease occurred across the world.

“The recent large global epidemic of chikungunya virus has so far only affected Australian travellers, but it has caused millions of cases across Africa, Asia and the Americas,” he said.

“Between 4000 and 5000 Australians get Ross River virus each year.”

The study involved collaborators from the University of Queensland, Griffith University, the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Japan, the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences in Brazil, and the University of Pittsburgh in the United States.

The research was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council, and the first author, QIMR Berghofer researcher Dr Natalie Prow, was awarded an Advance Queensland Research Fellowship.

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Australian-led team shortlisted for Cancer Research UK’s grand challenge award http://www.qimrberghofer.edu.au/2018/02/australian-led-team-shortlisted-cancer-research-uks-grand-challenge-award/ Thu, 08 Feb 2018 00:12:27 +0000 http://www.qimrberghofer.edu.au/?p=12221 A multi-disciplinary team of scientists from research institutes across Australia, Israel, the UK and the USA has been shortlisted to the final stages of Cancer Research UK’s Grand Challenge – an ambitious series of £20m global grants tackling some of the toughest questions in cancer research. The project aims to demystify the phenomenon of ‘cell…

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A multi-disciplinary team of scientists from research institutes across Australia, Israel, the UK and the USA has been shortlisted to the final stages of Cancer Research UK’s Grand Challenge – an ambitious series of £20m global grants tackling some of the toughest questions in cancer research.

The project aims to demystify the phenomenon of ‘cell dormancy’ – where cancer cells not killed by initial treatment can ‘go to sleep’ for months or years, only to wake later and start to form a new cancer. The reawakening of dormant cells often happens without warning, making the returning cancers hard to predict and treat, often with devastating effect.

The researchers seek to accelerate understanding of cancer cell dormancy and to answer questions once thought impossible to solve:  Why do cancer cells become dormant? And what causes them to wake up and form a new cancer? Their Grand Challenge project aims to create a map of the biological environment around dormant cancer cells in space and time, and to uncover the processes that control them – with the ultimate aim of stopping an individual’s cancer from returning.

Led by Professor Peter Croucher (Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney), the international team involves researchers at Garvan, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute and the University of Adelaide in Australia, as well as Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science, the Babraham Institute (UK), University of Oxford (UK), Yale University (USA) and Washington University (USA).

QIMR Berghofer Immunology Department coordinator, Professor Mark Smyth, said he was thrilled to be involved in such an exciting partnership.

“The immune system may be an important component of our body’s response that puts tumour cells to sleep, but it may also awaken tumour cells,” he said.

“We need to understand how this process occurs in the favourite hiding places of tumours and establish ways to keep the tumour cells dormant, or to eliminate them altogether.”

The team will now be given the opportunity to draft their full research proposal with support from Cancer Research UK, and the winning proposals will be announced in late 2018.

This is the second round of Cancer Research UK’s Grand Challenge award and last year four teams were awarded up to £20 million each.

Dr Iain Foulkes, executive director of research and innovation at Cancer Research UK, said round two of Grand Challenge was proving to be incredibly inspiring and the ambitious applications reflected the quality of global researchers.

“We’re delighted with the teams we’ve shortlisted and look forward to hearing more about how they plan to tackle the toughest challenges in cancer research,” he said.

Dr Rick Klausner, chair of Cancer Research UK’s Grand Challenge advisory panel, said the challenges set for Grand Challenge had once again attracted some of the best researchers in the world.

“I’m looking forward to see how global collaboration could bring together diverse expertise, invigorate areas of research, and overcome barriers in ways that aren’t happening at this point in time,” he said.

Professor Croucher said he was excited by the prospect of support from the Cancer Research UK Grand Challenge.

“This is an unprecedented opportunity to crack the problem of why some cancer cells sleep, then wake,” he said.

“It was once thought that understanding cancer cell dormancy was an insurmountably difficult problem, because of the immense technological challenges in finding and studying sleeping cells.

“But recent research progress in this area has been remarkable – and our project harnesses world-leading technology and multidisciplinary expertise from across the globe so that we can advance our understanding at an unprecedented rate.

“Solving this challenge will revolutionise understanding of cancer and bring new meaning to a “cure” for cancer.”

 

For media enquiries about the team and their research, contact:

Garvan Institute of Medical Research: Dr Meredith Ross – m.ross@garvan.org.au – 0439 873258

QIMR Berghofer: Brooke Baskin – media@qimrberghofer.edu.au – 07 3362 0280 – 0427 179 216

University of Adelaide: Crispin Savage – crispin.savage@adelaide.edu.au – 08 8313 7194

For media enquiries about Cancer Research UK’s Grand Challenge award contact Stephanie McClellan in the Cancer Research UK press office on +44 20 3469 5314 or, out of hours, on +44 7050 264 059.

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Regular sunscreen use could cut melanoma rates in Australia by a third http://www.qimrberghofer.edu.au/2018/01/regular-sunscreen-use-cut-melanoma-rates-australia-third/ Tue, 30 Jan 2018 20:38:19 +0000 http://www.qimrberghofer.edu.au/?p=12094 Regular sunscreen use by all Australians could drive down the burden of melanoma by up to 34 per cent by the year 2031, according to a study by QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. The findings mean an estimated 28,071 fewer melanomas would be diagnosed in Australia over that time. The head of QIMR Berghofer’s ­Cancer…

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Regular sunscreen use by all Australians could drive down the burden of melanoma by up to 34 per cent by the year 2031, according to a study by QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

The findings mean an estimated 28,071 fewer melanomas would be diagnosed in Australia over that time.

The head of QIMR Berghofer’s ­Cancer Control Group, Professor David Whiteman, said his research team predicted the likely impact of regular sunscreen use on melanoma rates.

“Ultraviolet radiation from sunlight is the main environmental cause of melanoma, with researchers estimating that it causes anywhere between 63 per cent and 90 per cent of all melanoma cases,” Professor Whiteman said.

“With melanoma rates still increasing in most populations across the world, it makes sense to look at the potential public health benefit of something as simple – but effective – as wearing sunscreen regularly.

“Broad spectrum sunscreens provide protection from the sun’s harmful rays and if applied daily, can reduce the risk of developing melanoma.”

Professor Whiteman said the study used existing publicly available data to calculate the potential impact in seven different modelling scenarios.

He said data about the effectiveness of applying daily sunscreen on melanoma came from QIMR Berghofer’s long-running Nambour skin cancer prevention trial.

The investigators modelled a number of hypothetical scenarios for the Australian population, including  mandatory sunscreen application for people aged 45-65 years, for all school-age children and, in the ‘best case’ example, assumed 100 per cent of the population used sunscreen at all times.

Professor Whiteman said the study found increased regular sunscreen use by older Australians would have the greatest overall impact on melanoma rates in the short-term.

“The burden of melanoma is highest in the older population, so the most effective sunscreen intervention in the short-term to reduce melanoma was within that population,” Professor Whiteman said.

“However, that only holds true if we assume the benefits of sunscreen use have an immediate and equal effect across all the age groups we looked at.

“Our school-age intervention led to a much more modest reduction in melanoma rates by year 2031. This is because we were only looking at the benefit after a relatively short timeframe, when we know melanomas usually occur in later life.

“We cautiously examined the possible effects of everyone wearing sunscreen from school-age to the year 2081, and found that it would reduce the burden of melanoma by around 20 per cent.

“That result is however less reliable due to the significant period of time we modelled.

“Given that sun exposure in early life may be an important factor in melanoma development, it is also possible that the benefits of regular sunscreen use are greater in children than this study suggests.”

Professor Whiteman said that despite sunscreen being protective against melanoma, there were still many variables that could affect a forecast reduction in cases.

“Sunscreen use is difficult to monitor,” Professor Whiteman said.

“Even if participants in a study were to say they applied sunscreen every day, we know that there are differences in the amount of sunscreen a person uses.”

Despite that, Professor Whiteman said the study’s findings were clear.

“The evidence strongly suggests that people who use sunscreen regularly significantly reduce their risk of developing melanoma,” he said.

“However, regular sunscreen would also reduce the public health burden of other types of skin cancer, too.”

Professor Whiteman said the study also predicted the impact of regular sunscreen use by the Caucasian population of the United States, finding it would lead to 796,872 fewer melanomas.

He said that equated to a predicted decrease in melanoma cases of about 38 per cent.

The study was published in the British Journal of Dermatology.

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Rural Queenslanders least likely to seek support services to cope with melanoma diagnosis http://www.qimrberghofer.edu.au/2018/01/rural-queenslanders-least-likely-seek-support-services-cope-melanoma-diagnosis/ Mon, 29 Jan 2018 23:22:44 +0000 http://www.qimrberghofer.edu.au/?p=12090 Rural Queenslanders who have been diagnosed with melanoma are more likely to look online for information or have counselling from their doctor, than visit community peers or community groups for support. A new study by QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute’s Cancer and Population Studies group researcher Dr Lena von Schuckmann looked at the support seeking…

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Rural Queenslanders who have been diagnosed with melanoma are more likely to look online for information or have counselling from their doctor, than visit community peers or community groups for support.

A new study by QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute’s Cancer and Population Studies group researcher Dr Lena von Schuckmann looked at the support seeking behaviour of patients from rural, regional and urban parts of Queensland at the time they were diagnosed with melanoma.

Dr von Schuckmann’s study, which has been published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, found Queenslanders who lived in rural areas, or were male, elderly or had a low level of education were less likely to use support services.

She said a greater proportion of rural patients were socioeconomically disadvantaged, as well as less likely to have had regular skin checks in the five years prior to a melanoma diagnosis.

“Of the 787 participants with localised melanomas, which haven’t spread to other parts of the body, just 37 per cent reported accessing a support service to help them at the time of diagnosis,” Dr von Schuckmann said.

“Overall, the proportion of patients who accessed at least one support service was lower in rural areas (29 per cent) than in regional (39 per cent) or urban areas (37 per cent).

“And across the state, patients most commonly sought information-based support, with 22 per cent going online, seven per cent obtaining written information and just one per cent receiving information via phone.

“Around 17 per cent of patients visited health providers, like a GP for counselling or an allied health practitioner to treat physical symptoms, whereas 13 per cent of patients used community supports, such as their peers or a community group.”

She said fewer rural patients used support services after a melanoma diagnosis than in urban and regional settings.

“Rural patients were less likely to draw on the community around them for support or use in-community supports, particularly from their peers,” Dr von Shuckmann said.

“We don’t really know why this is. It may be reflective of cultural attitudes, or it may simply be the barrier of distance and the lack of availability of structured community support services.

“We found that women who were younger or who had a high level of education were the most likely to access support services, overall.

“People with a more serious melanoma diagnosis were also more likely to access support.”

Dr von Schuckmann said the study suggested rural communities may be disadvantaged when it comes to accessing support services due to barriers such as a lack of infrastructure development, cost pressures associated with travel and location, and generally longer travel times.

The study recruited patients from public hospital clinics in Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast and Townsville, as well as through the private practices of surgeons and pathology services across the state, between 2010 and 2014.

The research was carried out by researchers from QIMR Berghofer, the University of Queensland and the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom.

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Top QIMR Berghofer researcher to head new national brain cancer taskforce http://www.qimrberghofer.edu.au/2018/01/top-qimr-berghofer-researcher-head-new-national-brain-cancer-taskforce/ Wed, 24 Jan 2018 02:14:36 +0000 http://www.qimrberghofer.edu.au/?p=12038 Professor Adele Green AC has been appointed to lead a new national advisory body established to improve quality of life for patients with brain cancer. Health Minister Greg Hunt announced today that Professor Green, who is the head of QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute’s Cancer and Population Studies Group, would head the newly formed Australian…

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Professor Adele Green AC has been appointed to lead a new national advisory body established to improve quality of life for patients with brain cancer.

Health Minister Greg Hunt announced today that Professor Green, who is the head of QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute’s Cancer and Population Studies Group, would head the newly formed Australian Brain Cancer Mission Strategic Advisory Group.

Professor Green’s appointment as an independent chair was in recognition of her significant and outstanding contributions to medical research.

The advisory body will work with Cancer Australia to provide strategic advice and guidance on defeating brain cancer, with a focus on doubling survival rates and improving quality of life for patients over the next decade.

QIMR Berghofer director and CEO, Professor Frank Gannon, said Professor Green would bring a depth of experience to the challenge of tackling brain cancer.

He said she was a world leader in research into cancer prevention, in particular skin cancer, as well as a former Queensland Australian of the Year.

“Professor Green is an outstanding appointment to the new advisory group,” he said.

“It is fantastic to see a top researcher from QIMR Berghofer leading the way to find a national solution to the deadly and debilitating burden of brain cancer.”

The Australian Brain Cancer Mission Strategic Advisory Group comprises brain cancer patients, clinicians, researchers, co-investors and industry representatives, and a member of the Medical Research Future Fund’s (MRFF) Australian Medical Research Advisory Board.

The new body will also provide advice on emerging national and international issues and identify and advise on opportunities to maximise investment within the scope of the Australian Brain Cancer Mission’s strategic goals.

Mr Hunt announced the creation of the Australian Brain Cancer Mission in October last year, pledging $50 million to the scheme under the Medical Research Future Fund.

It is a partnership between the Australian government, philanthropists, researchers and clinicians, patients and their families, with the Minderoo Foundation committing $10 million and the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation committing $20 million to support its work.

Professor Green has previously been chairwoman and a member of multiple committees at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), including the IARC Scientific Council.

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QIMR Berghofer-developed immunotherapy for multiple sclerosis gets green light from US FDA to proceed with patient enrolment at US sites for global Phase 1 clinical study http://www.qimrberghofer.edu.au/2018/01/qimr-berghofer-developed-immunotherapy-multiple-sclerosis-gets-green-light-us-fda-proceed-patient-enrolment-us-sites-global-phase-1-clinical-study/ Fri, 12 Jan 2018 02:25:17 +0000 http://www.qimrberghofer.edu.au/?p=11977 A cellular immunotherapy treatment for multiple sclerosis, which was developed and manufactured at Brisbane’s QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, has been given regulatory approval to enter into clinical trials in the United States. The treatment was developed by QIMR Berghofer immunologist Professor Rajiv Khanna and is being manufactured at the Institute’s cell therapy manufacturing facility,…

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A cellular immunotherapy treatment for multiple sclerosis, which was developed and manufactured at Brisbane’s QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, has been given regulatory approval to enter into clinical trials in the United States.

The treatment was developed by QIMR Berghofer immunologist Professor Rajiv Khanna and is being manufactured at the Institute’s cell therapy manufacturing facility, Q-Gen Cell Therapeutics. The technology has been licenced by US-based biopharmaceutical company Atara Biotherapeutics, Inc.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given Atara clearance to proceed with enrolling patients with progressive or relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis in Phase I clinical trials in the US.

QIMR Berghofer’s Director and CEO, Professor Frank Gannon, said the decision was a major endorsement of Q-Gen Cell Therapeutics and Professor Khanna’s work.

“Q-Gen Cell Therapeutics will continue to manufacture the cellular treatments for Atara’s trial,” Professor Gannon said.

“The fact the US FDA has given approval for products manufactured at Q-Gen to enter into clinical trials demonstrates that their standards are world-class.

“I am delighted that a product developed and manufactured here at QIMR Berghofer has received approval to enter into an international clinical trial.”

The treatment uses healthy donor immune cells to selectively target Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-infected B cells, which are believed to play an important role in the development of MS.

Last year, Atara was given approval by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to initiate the clinical trial in Australia.

The trial is expected to enrol a total of 60 patients across the US, Australia and Europe.

Professor Khanna said the latest announcement showed that Brisbane was an internationally significant site for biotechnology and innovation.

“The research and intellectual property behind this treatment was developed here in Brisbane,” he said.

“We are very pleased that Atara has been given the green light to trial this product in patients and hope that it will lead to an improvement in their symptoms.”

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Scientists solve puzzle of why some children with cystic fibrosis sustain liver damage http://www.qimrberghofer.edu.au/2018/01/scientists-solve-puzzle-children-cystic-fibrosis-sustain-liver-damage/ Mon, 01 Jan 2018 23:48:50 +0000 http://www.qimrberghofer.edu.au/?p=11912 Scientists have for the first time discovered the mechanism that causes severe liver disease in some children with cystic fibrosis. The discovery could pave the way forward for the development of a targeted treatment. The study was led by the head of the Hepatic Fibrosis laboratory at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Professor Grant Ramm.…

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Scientists have for the first time discovered the mechanism that causes severe liver disease in some children with cystic fibrosis.

The discovery could pave the way forward for the development of a targeted treatment.

The study was led by the head of the Hepatic Fibrosis laboratory at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Professor Grant Ramm.

He and his collaborators have identified how and why a build-up of bile in the liver occurs and causes irreversible scarring, known as fibrosis.

Professor Ramm said it was a vital first step to finding a treatment.

“If we understand how scarring and liver disease occurs in these children with cystic fibrosis, we can identify for the first time what we need to target in order to treat it,” he said.

“This is an important first step because finding a treatment could transform the lives of around 10 to 15 per cent of children with cystic fibrosis who develop quite severe liver disease.

“Liver disease caused by cystic fibrosis has no known treatment and can cause irreversible damage, cirrhosis and, ultimately, liver failure.”

Professor Ramm said people with cystic fibrosis lived to an average of 38 years thanks to improvements in treatment for lung disease.

However, he said the development of liver disease in 10 to 15 per cent of children with cystic fibrosis could tragically shorten their lifespan even further.

He said that in the lungs, cystic fibrosis caused a build-up of mucous.

When this occurred in the bile ducts of the liver, the gene defect slowed the efficient removal of toxin-filled bile from the liver into the intestine and out of the body.

“In children with cystic fibrosis who develop liver disease, the usual pathways to remove toxin-filled bile from the liver don’t work as efficiently as they should,” Professor Ramm said.

He said a build-up of bile increased the presence of a toxic bile acid, known as taurocholic acid, in the liver.

The study showed higher levels of taurocholic acid in the bile caused liver progenitor (stem) cells to transform into large numbers of new bile duct cells, he said.

Professor Ramm said the new bile duct cells secreted chemicals that ultimately caused excessive scarring in the liver.

“That scarring – or fibrosis – can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure,” he said.

“The study found it was this mechanism – combined with the liver’s unique ability to continually attempt to regenerate itself after injury – that causes fibrosis, or the hardening of the liver induced by scar tissue.”

Professor Ramm said the study, which was published in The American Journal of Pathology, was a collaboration with Professor Peter Lewindon from the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane.

He said the next step was to identify why some children with cystic fibrosis developed liver disease, when others did not.

“Increasing our understanding of the role of bile acids and their impact on liver progenitor cells, as well as the unique relationship between different cell populations in the liver, will help in the development of targeted therapies to reduce scarring in the livers of children with cystic fibrosis,” Professor Ramm said.

The study was supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council research grant and made possible through collaboration with researchers from the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital and Curtin University.

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Max Kelsen and genomiQa announce partnership to lead AI and genomics collaboration http://www.qimrberghofer.edu.au/2017/12/max-kelsen-genomiqa-announce-partnership-lead-ai-genomics-collaboration/ Mon, 18 Dec 2017 22:33:18 +0000 http://www.qimrberghofer.edu.au/?p=11859 Analytics and software engineering agency Max Kelsen and precision analytics start-up genomiQa will combine Artificial Intelligence and genomics to advance the field of precision medicine. The two Brisbane-based companies have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on developing predictive analysis tools to improve patient care. Initial areas of collaboration will include developing improved…

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Analytics and software engineering agency Max Kelsen and precision analytics start-up genomiQa will combine Artificial Intelligence and genomics to advance the field of precision medicine.

The two Brisbane-based companies have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on developing predictive analysis tools to improve patient care. Initial areas of collaboration will include developing improved models to predict how individual patients are likely to respond to various cancer treatments.

The ground-breaking partnership puts Australia at the global forefront of integrating whole genome sequencing and AI into clinical practise.

The collaboration has already attracted global interest, forming a pipeline of research and commercial activity with a focus on delivering better outcomes for cancer patients and the health system through precision medicine.

genomiQa, a spin out company of QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, offers hospitals, clinicians and companies high-quality analysis of genomic data to inform healthcare decisions. It became the first company in Australia to specialise in the analysis of whole genome cancer data when it launched this year.

genomiQa’s founders are world leaders in the field of genome analytics with a 2015 study in Nature Communications identifying the company’s pipeline as one of the top performers in the world.

Max Kelsen is a leading big data and AI firm specifically focused on pushing the frontier of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. This includes forming partnerships with IBM Watson and Google to deliver best-in-world access for health outcomes. Max Kelsen is already working with governments and enterprise to deliver cutting-edge Artificial Intelligence and machine learning solutions.

genomiQa’s co-founder, John Pearson, said the collaboration would deliver benefits for patients and the healthcare system.

“With the rate of increase in healthcare costs, we won’t be able to afford 21st century healthcare if we don’t use 21st century methods to select treatments,” he said.

genomiQa’s CEO, Dr Goslik Schepers, said the collaboration offered both parties the opportunity to explore synergies to deliver truly innovative solutions in the field of genome analytics.

“By combining our world-class genomic expertise with Max Kelsen’s advanced AI and machine learning capabilities, the companies can deliver new and exciting health informatics solutions for Australian and global healthcare sectors,” he said.

“We are delighted to be partnering with the leaders in artificial intelligence to improve the way cancer patients are treated.”

Max Kelsen’s health lead, Cameron Bean, said the collaboration would break new ground on some of the largest and most complex challenges facing the field of medicine.

“A whole genome consists of approximately 3.2 billion data points. When we work on cancer, it becomes even more complex. The models we are working on have more data points than there are people in the world,” he said.

Max Kelsen’s CEO, Nicholas Therkelsen-Terry, said the two companies planned to develop ways to predict whether patients were likely to respond to treatments or experience side effects.

“Our approach could be used to make sure that those patients don’t waste precious treatment time on a therapy that will not work for them,” he said.

“Tackling this problem by combining Max Kelsen’s expertise in data science with genomiQa’s expertise in clinical genomics seemed an obvious fit to both companies.”

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Landmark Alzheimer’s study to drive push for early detection and better treatment http://www.qimrberghofer.edu.au/2017/12/landmark-alzheimers-study-drive-push-early-detection-better-treatment/ Mon, 18 Dec 2017 00:22:36 +0000 http://www.qimrberghofer.edu.au/?p=11851 Researchers at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute are trying to crack one of medicine’s most challenging mysteries: can we detect who is going to develop dementia and what do we need to look for? A major five-year study is looking at how to detect Alzheimer’s disease when future sufferers are still young and healthy, so…

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Researchers at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute are trying to crack one of medicine’s most challenging mysteries: can we detect who is going to develop dementia and what do we need to look for?

A major five-year study is looking at how to detect Alzheimer’s disease when future sufferers are still young and healthy, so treatment can start before the brain tissue is substantially damaged.

Lead researchers, Professor Michael Breakspear, Dr Christine Guo and Professor Nick Martin launched the Prospective Imaging Study of Ageing (PISA) study after securing grant funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council in 2015.

Now partway through the research, Professor Breakspear said participants in the study were taking part in cognitive and genetic tests, magnetic resonance (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) imaging to help pinpoint the markers that might be indicators of developing the disease.

“While the burden of dementia in Australia occurs late in life, the underlying brain disease accumulates decades prior to the first symptoms,” he said.

“We want to develop ways to identify those people at the very earliest stage of the disease and before permanent and often irreversible damage to the brain takes place.

“By following the participants in this study for years to decades, we can really start to look at the progression of brain changes.

“This would also allow us to study the role of genetic and lifestyle factors – such as sleep and physical activity – to help us to really understand the causes of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Dr Guo said the study was enhanced by the development of a new imaging system, which tested the memories of participants by having them view a series of news clippings.

“The results from the news viewing experiments are really encouraging,” Dr Guo said.

“We’ve found the rich emotional and natural flavour of the news clips evokes the memory processes more robustly than traditional tasks used to study memory in the laboratory.

“Previous tasks may have typically required memorising and recalling very abstract pieces of information, or isolated words and faces.

“Our hope is this will allow us to more effectively capture the subtle memory deficits of someone who is in the very earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease.”

She said Alzheimer’s disease remained an enormous burden on Australian society, with devastating consequences for those living with it, as well as their families and carers.

“Diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease once a person’s functioning is impaired and there has been damage to the brain is a bit like trying to treat cancer in its final stages. It’s too late to reverse the disease. That’s why early screening and intervention – as we see in breast and skin cancer screening – is so vital,” she said.

“If we can identify the patients who are at risk or in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, we would be in a much better position to reverse the pathological process that causes it.

“With growing effort being made in preventative programs, early intervention will allow us to identify at-risk individuals and start working with them sooner to delay the disease.”

Dr Guo said the study had already recruited 47 participants, with another 10 scheduled for testing before the end of the year.

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