Medical researchers from the University of Newcastle and Hunter New England Health received a $400,000 injection last night when the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) announced its latest project grant recipients.

Asthma, cancer, diabetes, infertility, mental health, myopia, pregnancy and stroke were among a raft of conditions and diseases covered by the 20 research studies that were awarded seed funding.

HMRI Director Professor Michael Nilsson said the remarkable depth and breadth of research being conducted under HMRI’s umbrella was borne out by the wide variety of grant applications.

“Medical research is a fiercely competitive business because the funding pot can extend only so far, but competition brings out the absolute best in the brightest of people,” Professor Nilsson said.

“With HMRI’s strong focus on delivering patient-centric, translational research, I’m hopeful that the project results will soon flow through to tangible community health benefits.”

 University recipients include:

HMRI Supporters Grant recipient: Professor Chris Levi

Pictured above.

The genetic determinants of brain haemorrhage associated with stroke thrombolysis

Clot-busting tPA is the only proven effective drug treatment for acute stroke. Although highly effective, it carries a risk of sometimes catastrophic brain haemorrhage, but the reasons why some patients treated with tPA bleed is unclear.

This study will be the first internationally to examine genetic factors associated with bleeding risk. It will allow greater understanding of the complications and potentially lead to the development of strategies to prevent tPA related bleeding.

* Professor Levi is Director of the Acute Stroke Services at John Hunter Hospital and Director of the Priority Research Centre for Translational Neuroscience and Mental Health at the University of Newcastle.

Singleton Foundation Grant recipient: Professor Joerg Mattes

Molecular and cellular characterisation of TLR7 signalling in rhinovirus-induced asthma exacerbation

Exacerbations of asthma and wheezing illness caused by the common cold virus known as Rhinovirus (RV) are a major disease burden leading to frequent hospital admissions. This project determines the role of a RV sensing immune receptor in controlling the immune response. The results will lead to a better understanding of how to best treat RV-induced asthma and wheeze in the future.

* Professor Mattes works at John Hunter Children’s Hospital and is Chair of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Newcastle’s School of Medicine and Public Health.

Katie Sutter Memorial Fund Grant recipient: Professor Rodney Scott

Drugs that act on the renin-angiotensin system; repositioning their therapeutic targets to endometrial cancer

New treatments can be generated at low cost through the novel use of drugs to treat diseases that they weren’t originally intended for. Cancers need to grow and develop new blood vessels to spread. The renin-angiotensin system (RAS) stimulates cell growth and new blood vessel formation.

Therefore drugs that block the RAS and which are widely used for high blood pressure treatment are strong candidates for use in cancer. This study will test how effective they are in treating endometrial cancer.

* Professor Scott is co-director of the University of Newcastle’s Priority Research Centre for Bioinformatics, Biomarker Discovery and Information-Based Medicine, and leads the HMRI Information Based Medicine Research Program.

Terry Kennedy and Tainn Hunter Classic Grant recipient: Professor Roger Smith AM

Epigenetic Regulation of Progesterone Receptors and the Onset of Labour

Progesterone maintains human pregnancy, yet labour occurs when progesterone levels are still very high. Research has shown that this is due to changes in the progesterone receptor isoforms which are expressed in the muscle of the uterus at the time of labour, making the uterus unresponsive to progesterone.

This project seeks to determine how this change in progesterone receptors is regulated at the gene level.

* Professor Smith is Professor of Endocrinology at the University of Newcastle, Co-Director of the University of Newcastle Priority Research Centre for Reproductive Sciences, Director of the Mothers and Babies Research Centre and Leader of the HMRI Pregnancy and Reproduction Program.

To see the full list of grants please click HERE.