EXERCISE, REPRODUCTION, GENETICS AND NUTRITION

MEMBERS

Professor Rodney Scott

Professor Rodney Scott

Research Fellows

Kelly Avery Kiejda, Michelle Wong-Brown, Vicki Maltby

Laboratory Manager

Trish Collinson

PhD Students

Alex Xavier,  Sommer,  Brianna Morten,  Abdullah Noraidatulakma,  Nadine Berry,  Benjamin Kamien


OVERVIEW

Inherited forms of cancer have been Professor Scott’s main interest for around 25 years. The research has first focused on the identification of genes associated with inherited forms of colorectal cancer and breast cancer. The research area proved to be extremely successful as it really set the scene for the group’s current understanding of the genetic basis of malignancy.

Since the identification of genetic susceptibilities the research has focused on better defining these inherited entities such that more appropriate intervention strategies can be developed. Initially, much emphasis was placed on recognising genotype/phenotype correlations with disease and as such the research undertaken has done much to define such relationships. More recently, the role of modifier genes in disease penetrance has been a major thematic area and data forthcoming from these studies indicates that there are additional disease susceptibilities that are important in assessing individual risk on a genetic background of high risk. This research is now beginning to be translated to the general population as it represents the first tentative move towards determining cancer risk in the general population. With increasing emphasis on disease prevention it is to be expected that this research will continue to flourish.

Over the past 10 years Professor Scott’s work has diversified and developed into studies that are associated with a better understanding of the genetic basis of common diseases (that include in addition to cancer other diseases such as multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia and stroke, to name but a few).

The group published 52 manuscripts in high quality international journals in 2015 and presented work at many national/international conferences.


Members

Professor Jon Hirst

Professor Jon Hirst

Research Fellow:

Hannah Palliser

Research Assistant:

Poonam Rani

PhD Students:

Greer Bennett, Julia Shaw, Kirsten McInerney, Angela Cumberland


Overview

The laboratory focuses on problems in pregnancy and how these may influence immediate and long term outcomes for the offspring.

The group are most interested in childhood health outcomes following preterm birth, pregnancies affected by fetal growth problems and small for gestational age fetuses.

Growth restriction is the failure of the fetus to grow to its full potential and is also a major contributor to adult diseases. These pregnancy compromises are associated with an increased incidence of behaviour disorders including ADHD and aggressive behaviour in childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

The group’s work particularly examines the deficiencies in the steroid hormone environment of the developing brain that may cause these disorders.

The placenta has a key role in controlling growth promoting steroid levels in the fetal brain and so problems with normal development and function lead to marked deficits in steroid supply to the brain.

The group’s studies also examine replacement therapies used shortly after preterm birth to improve outcomes and lessen the likelihood of behavioural problems for those born prematurely or small.

Neurosteroid hormones form a key modulatory system that has a major role in regulating the levels of excitation. Inadequate levels of these hormones have been shown to contribute to major hyperactivity and anxiety disorders.

The objectives of the laboratory’s recent work is to determine if prenatal stress or stress in the neonatal period causes reductions in neurosteroid signalling leading to suboptimal brain development.

The group also examine treatments with a synthetic neurosteroid or a drug that raises neurosteroid production for improving these conditions.

MEMBERS

Kirsty Pringle

ARC Future Fellow Kirsty Pringle

Research Fellow

Yu Wang

Research Assistant

Celine Corbisier de Meaultsart

PhD Students

Mohammed Riazuddin

Sarah Delforce


OVERVIEW

The laboratory’s research examines the role of the intrauterine, circulating and intrarenal renin angiotensin systems (RASs) in pregnancy and female reproductive health, which have been implicated in pregnancy complications such as preterm birth and preeclampsia as well as in disease states such as endometrial cancer, diabetes, kidney disease and hypertension.

The group is led by Dr Kirsty Pringle in partnership with Emeritus Scientia Professor Eugenie Lumbers.

Current areas of research interest include:

  • The use of markers of the circulating and intrarenal RAS to identify Indigenous women with underlying kidney disease and who are potentially at risk of preeclampsia
  • MicroRNAs that regulate the placental renin angiotensin system and how these impact placental angiogenesis and pregnancy outcome;
  • Investigation of the role of the prorenin receptor in placentation
  • Novel actions of Angiotensin II in the circulation of the preterm neonate and implications for clinical management of preterm cardiovascular compromise; and
  • The role of the endometrial RAS in endometrial cancer and endometriosis and the potential that RAS blocking drugs could be used to treat these diseases.
  • Novel biomarkers for detection of endometrial cancer

MEMBERS

Associate Professor Lisa Wood

Associate Professor Lisa Wood

Research Fellows

Bronwyn Berthon

Megan Jensen

PhD Students

Qian Li  Evan Williams  Rebecca Zapirain  Hashim Periyalil

OVERVIEW

This group are investigating nutritional approaches to managing respiratory diseases, including asthma and COPD.

There is great consumer interest in nutritional approaches to managing these diseases, however, there has been a paucity of good quality scientific evidence to indicate how diets should be modified to assist in disease management.

The group are working towards addressing this need. In 2015, there were 4 main themes:

A clinical trial was conducted, examining how soluble fibre modulates airway inflammation in asthma and a clinical trial was commenced examining how diet quality affects exacerbation risk, anti-viral responses and epigenetic mechanisms in children with asthma.

Previous work has shown that excessive consumption of fatty acids increases airway inflammation and reduces the efficacy of bronchodilator medications (ie ventolin) in asthma. In 2015 the group completed a clinical study which examined the effects of different types of macronutrients and fatty acids.

The group have been collecting adipose tissue from patients during bariatric surgery, investigating how obesity effects the function of macrophages derived from this tissue and relating this to asthma severity and symptoms.

MEMBERS

Associate Professor Jodie Simpson

Associate Professor Jodie Simpson

Research Assistants

Kavita Pabreja, Kellie Fakes, Joanna Howes, Jennifer Darcey

PhD Students

Ms Melanie Erriah, Ms Stephany, Sanchez-Ovando, Mr Ravi Lokwani


OVERVIEW

Associate Professor Simpson is a clinical research scientist and research leader within the Healthy Lungs Priority Research Centre for Asthma and Respiratory Disease and leads the inflammation node within the level 2 West Wing VIVA group of Hunter Medical Research Institute and is the current holder of the Australian Respiratory Council’s Ann Woolcock Research Fellowship.

The laboratory research focus is around the mechanisms and treatment of airway inflammation in obstructive airways disease.