Garvan Institute

Garvan eNews November 2012


Research Update - A leap forward in the quest to develop an artificial pancreas
Research Update - How infection can trigger autoimmune disease
Research Update - When considering bariatric surgery think about bones
Watch Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity Seminar online now
Free Garvan Public Seminars 2013


Research Update

Each month, we'll feature a selection of our latest breakthroughs - made possible through the help of our supporters.

A leap forward in the quest to develop an artificial pancreas

Garvan's A/Prof Jenny Gunton and Dr Nigel Greenwood, an Honorary Senior Fellow at the University of Queensland, have collaborated to test the prototype of an artificial pancreas. Should a planned clinical study and clinical trial support the excellent ‘simulated’ results obtained so far, this breakthrough could one day change the lives of millions of people.

People with Type 1 diabetes have insufficient levels of insulin producing cells in their pancreas, and must inject or infuse insulin several times a day to control their blood sugar levels. This is a very crude substitute for what the body does moment-by-moment when it senses blood sugar and automatically releases the right amount of insulin to control it.

Dr Greenwood, who is also an applied mathematician with a background in developing machine intelligence software for military aerospace projects and industrial robotics, developed the prototype.

“The technology we just tested is revolutionary for a whole lot of mathematical reasons – but the point is that it forecasts a completely new approach to programming insulin pumps, with the results from this preliminary grant from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation being extremely impressive.” says Dr Greenwood. He hopes to do a small clinical study next year and a clinical trial in 2014, aiming for the product to reach the market by 2016.

Read more on this complex and groundbreaking research.

 

How infection can trigger autoimmune disease

Garvan scientists have confirmed a ‘weak link’ in the immune system – identifying the exact conditions under which an infection can trigger an autoantibody response, a process not clearly understood until now.

We have known for many years that autoimmune diseases such as rheumatic fever can occur after the body makes immune responses against certain infectious micro-organisms, however, we have not been able to explain exactly how infection-driven autoimmunity occurs, nor why our bodies seem unable to prevent them.

Our immune cells, such as the antibody-creating B cells, go through processes when they are first formed that ensure they are able to identify our own bodies, and therefore avoid self-attack. These processes are generally reliable as they take place in a steady, regulated way.

However, sometimes the antibody created to fight the invader, or ‘antigen’, also happens to match ‘self’ and has the potential to cause autoimmune attack.

A/Prof Rob Brink (left) and Dr Tyani Chan (right) have demonstrated in mouse models that when antigen is abundant and generally available throughout the body, rogue autoantibody-generating B cells are deleted and autoimmunity avoided. Conversely, when target antigen is located only in a tissue or organ remote from the germinal centre (a special environment in the lymph system where high affinity antibody generation occurs), B cells capable of reacting against both antigen and ‘self’ are able to escape the germinal centre and produce autoantibodies.Their finding is published in the prestigious international journal Immunity.

"Our finding explains a lot about how autoimmune conditions that target particular organs such as the heart or nervous system could develop after an infection," says A/Prof Brink. Read More.

 

When considering bariatric surgery think about bones

Bariatric surgery, which significantly curtails the amount of food a person can eat, is the most effective treatment against obesity and is being recognized as a potentially valuable tool in the fight against diabetes related to obesity. It is being performed on increasing numbers of people worldwide, including teenagers.

Endocrinologists from Garvan, Dr Malgorzata Brzozowska and A/Prof Jackie Center, says that unfortunately, some types of bariatric surgery may also cause bone loss, a cause for concern, particularly when carried out on young people who have not yet reached their peak bone mass. They have just published a review of current literature in the journal Obesity Reviews, now online.

In particular, the review points out, we should be aware of surgery-induced changes in hormones that can affect the central regulation of appetite and bone strength. A/Prof Jackie Center believes that the findings are very important despite the widely held assumption that obese people are protected against bone fragility and fracture. Read More.

 


Watch Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity Seminar online now

Thank you to everyone who supported Garvan's Public Seminar Series this year.

Click here to watch the latest Seminar on Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity online. 

Speakers include:    

  • Prof David James FAA
  • Prof Lesley Campbell AM
  • Prof Thomas Borody
  • Prof Katherine Samaras

 


Free Garvan Public Seminars 2013

Register Now for the special 50th Anniversary Celebration Seminar

2013 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Garvan Institute, and we are proud to kick off next year with our first seminar looking back on 50 years of remarkable research and looking forward to what the future holds.

Garvan 50th Anniversary Celebration Seminar

Time: 10am - 12pm (Registrations open from 9:30 am)

Date: Thursday, 28 February 2012

Location: NAB Auditorium, Garvan Institute, 384 Victoria St, Darlinghurst (enter via Burton St)

You can also view a complete list of our 2013 Seminar Series and register online now.

 


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Garvan Institute

Garvan eNews October 2012


Garvan sadly farewells Professor Rob Sutherland
Research Update - Unmasking the deadly secrets of pancreatic cancer
Research Update - ENCODE reveals junk DNA not junk afterall
Research Update - Garvan performs well in NHMRC Grants round
Free Garvan Public Seminar: Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity


Garvan sadly farewells Professor Rob Sutherland (1947 - 2012)

Garvan sadly lost Prof Rob Sutherland (pictured right) who passed away on the 10th October after battling pancreatic cancer for the last few years.

Prof Sutherland had been the Director of the Cancer Research Program at Garvan for the past 27 years, and was the inaugural director of The Kinghorn Cancer Centre. He established one of Australia's most successful cancer research programs, initially in the fields of breast and prostate cancer but later diversifying into many other solid cancers such as those of the pancreas, ovary, head and neck and lung. He was internationally recognised for his research into cancers that are dependent on sex steroid hormones for their development and progression, particularly breast and prostate cancer. He became a driving force behind the establishment of The Kinghorn Cancer Centre, an initiative aimed at maximising the rapid translation of research findings to new approaches for personalised cancer diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

Rob was a proud and loving father and a friend to many. He is survived by his wife Cheryl and children Andrew, Sarah, Rebecca and Charles and brother Alistair. He acted as a supportive mentor of over 40 postgraduate students and numerous post-doctoral scientists, who have achieved major success nationally and internationally in medical research.

GIFTS IN MEMORY OF PROF ROB SUTHERLAND

The Sutherland family has requested that friends and colleagues not send flowers, but instead make donations to the Garvan Research Foundation or St Vincent's Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression. To donate, please click on the name of either organisation above to take you to the appropriate web page. Read more on Prof. Sutherland's lifetime achievements.

 


Research Update

Each month, we'll feature a selection of our latest breakthroughs - made possible through the help of our supporters.

Unmasking the deadly secrets of pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of all the major cancers and is one of the few for which survival has not improved substantially over the past 40 years. It is the fourth-leading cause of cancer death.

Garvan's Professor Andrew Biankin (left in picture), along with Professor Sean Grimmond (right in picture), from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) at The University of Queensland, led an international team of more than 100 researchers that sequenced the genomes of 100 pancreatic tumours and compared them to normal tissue to determine the genetic changes that lead to this cancer.

A large-scale study that defines the complexity of underlying mutations responsible for pancreatic cancers in more than 100 patients was published in Nature. The analysis represents the first report from Australia’s contribution to the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC), which brings together the world's leading scientists to identify the genetic drivers behind 50 different cancer types.

“We found over 2,000 mutated genes in total, ranging from the KRAS gene, which was mutated in about 90 per cent of samples, to hundreds of gene mutations that were only present in 1 or 2 per cent of tumours,” Professor Grimmond said. “So while tumours may look very similar under the microscope, genetic analysis reveals as many variations in each tumour as there are patients.

Read more on the extraordinary work done on this complex disease.

 

ENCODE reveals junk DNA not junk afterall

The ENCODE Project, the Encyclopedia Of DNA Elements, was launched in September 2003 by The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) as an international public research consortium to identify all functional elements in the human genome sequence. 

Prof John Mattick, Executive Director of Garvan talks to ABC Radio National's Robyn Williams on The Science Show about the impact ENCODE has made on the existing understanding of DNA and its effects in the world of molecular biology. Furthermore, he explains why he thinks viruses are not just things that invade us, but probably helping to create the extraordinary diversity that we need to have a functioning brain as well. Click here to listen to Prof Mattick's interview.

Click here for a video from The Guardian UK on what the ENCODE project is telling us about the human genome.

 

Garvan performs well in NHMRC Grants round

The Garvan Institute received $19.6 million in the latest round of National Health and Medical Research Council grants, announced last Friday by the federal Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek, at the University of Sydney.

Garvan performed at least 50% above the national average, receiving 12.5% of funding awarded to NSW as a whole, and 3% of the national total.

Congratulations to those scientists who were awarded fellowships, so vital to career stability: Associate Professor Stuart Tangye, Associate Professor Chris Ormandy, Dr Greg Neely, Dr Daniel Christ (pictured right), Dr Alex Swarbrick, Dr Ling Liu and Dr Tyani Chan. Congratulations to all our hard-working scientists.

Click here for the full list of scientists and their projects that received funding.

 


Free Garvan Public Seminar: Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity

Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity - Places are extremely limited. 

Time: 10am - 12pm (Registrations open from 9:30 am)

Date: Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Location: NAB Auditorium, Garvan Institute, 384 Victoria St, Darlinghurst (enter via Burton St)

Hurry! Register Now for Free Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity Seminar



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