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Significant HRC funding boost for Dunedin School of Medicine

Monday 19 June 2017 1:29pm

Dunedin School of Medicine (DSM) researchers have been awarded $4.25 million in new health research funding to support their innovative studies aimed at improving New Zealander's health and well-being.

2017 HRC programme grants - DSM

Associate Professor Brian Cox, Department of Preventive and Social Medicine
The molecular pathological epidemiology of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)
18 months

This research will assess the relationship among similar and disparate risk factors for various types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) and variations in the gene controlling mechanisms that are passed on when cells divide. The NHL patient series will also provide a basis for survival studies for patients with different types of NHL and allow the impact of new types of therapy to be estimated.

Other DSM named investigators in this project:
Professor Ian Morison Department of Pathology
Dr Mary Sneyd Department of Preventive and Social Medicine

Associate Professor Greg Jones, Department of Surgical Sciences
An epigenome-wide study for coronary artery disease
36 months

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the leading cause of death in our community. Unfortunately, current risk prediction tools lack both sensitivity and specificity and there is a clear need to develop improved methods of identifying those at risk. While both inherited and environmental factors each contribute significant risk, our current lack of understanding of gene-environment interactions has limited our ability to identify new adjunctive risk tools. In this study we will use epigenetics, specifically genome-wide DNA methylation profiling, as a marker of some of these interactions, in order to identify novel CAD risk markers. Our own preliminary data, suggests that this approach may not only yield significant advances in CAD risk prediction, but may also identify novel therapeutic targets amenable to drug treatments. By combining genetic, epigenetic and demographic risk information for each study participant this research represents an important step towards the delivery of personalised cardiovascular disease medicine.

Other DSM named investigators in this project:
Professor Michael Williams Department of Medicine

Dr Lianne Parkin, Department of Preventive and Social Medicine
Are treatments for COPD increasing the risk of acute coronary syndrome?
36 months

Acute coronary syndrome (heart attacks and unstable angina) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are among the commonest reasons for hospital admission and death in New Zealand. Māori, Pacific peoples, and lower income groups are particularly affected. Acute coronary syndrome is common among people with COPD. Inhaled long-acting bronchodilators (long-acting muscarinic antagonists [LAMAs] and long-acting beta-agonists [LABAs]) are the main drugs used to treat people with COPD. However, there is concern that both LAMAs and LABAs may further increase the risk of acute coronary syndrome. This is important because the clinical benefits of these drugs are modest and people with COPD are more likely to die from coronary events than from respiratory failure. We propose to undertake a study to determine the risk of acute coronary events in people taking LAMAs and LABAs. The study will use anonymised existing data only, no patients will be approached.

Other DSM named investigators in this project:
Dr Jack Dummer Department of Preventive and Social Medicine
Associate Professor Katrina Sharples Department of Preventive and Social Medicine
Dr Jiaxu Zeng Department of Preventive and Social Medicine
Dr Simon Horsburgh Department of Preventive and Social Medicine
Mr David Barson Department of Preventive and Social Medicine

Professor Stephen Robertson, Department of Women's and Children's Health
Defining human specific genetic variants in brain developmental disorders
36 months

Stem cells within the developing human brain have the potential to repair neurological damage whether it is caused by in-born or acquired factors. A limited understanding of the genetic regulation of these cells limits the exploitation of this capability. We will study the genetic factors that underpin a disorder caused by mutations that affect brain stem cells. By identifying these factors, particularly those that occur in regions of the genome that are specific to humans, we aim to catalogue factors that will form a lens through which we can understand human brain development better. Aligned with this aim is our intention to study these mutations and their affects in human brain organoids, tiny self-organising brain-like structures that can be grown the laboratory from human cells. Together these experiments will help develop more specific therapies for brain damage that are aimed directly at brain stem cell functions.

Other DSM named investigators in this project:
Dr Wenhua Wei Department of Women's and Children's Health

2017 HRC Pacific project grants - DSM

Dr Rosalina Richards, Department of Prevetive and Social Medicine
Sleep and well-being among Pacific children and adolescents
32 months

Ensuring children and adolescents receive sufficient good-quality sleep is critical for their physical and emotional health. We currently know little about sleep in Pacific children and their families and how to best support good sleep/wake patterns within Pacific contexts. The overarching objective of this project is to inform the development of effective sleep interventions by capturing Pacific perspectives about sleep, health and interventions. The first study will involve interviews with Pacific parents, exploring intergenerational changes in sleep patterns, associations between sleep and wellbeing and appropriateness of current sleep measurement and intervention strategies. A second study will use key informant interviews with Pacific health and educational professionals to explore the role of sleep in health/education outcomes for Pacific families and explore ways to maximise the effectiveness of sleep interventions for Pacific communities.

Other named investigators in this project:
Associate Professor Barbara Galland Department of Women's and Children's Health
Associate Professor Ruth Fitzgerald Department of Anthropology and Archaeology
Professor Rachael Taylor Department of Medicine