Natural cure for beating superbugs 

Professor Jon Iredell and his team are developing a treatment for 'superbugs'.

Phage therapy involves using viruses, known as bacteriophages, which are natural predators of bacteria, to kill the germs that antibiotics cannot. Scientists from our Centre for Infectious Diseases and Microbiology are investigating which combination of phages are effective at defeating bacteria. They hope this treatment will cure patients infected by bacteria and ‘superbugs’ that are resistant to antibiotics. 

Preventing shingles 

The shingles vaccine, Shingrix, is more than 90% effective at preventing shingles in older Australians.

Over 20 years, researchers from our Centre for Virus Research established the immunological foundation for a high effective vaccine for shingles; a virus that causes a painful blistering rash. The vaccine is more than 90% effective amongst older Australians, and performs better than any other commonly used vaccine. The result has positive implications for ultimately preventing the disease and future vaccinology in elderly patients. 

Repairing the human heart

Associate Professor James Chong is working to repair heart muscle damaged by heart attack.

A team from our Centre for Heart Research is investigating the use of stem cells to grow new heart muscle to repair damage caused by heart attack. Dead heart muscle cannot be replace with new working heart muscle to any meaningful degree, so a heart transplant is the only ‘cure’ available to patients with end stage heart failure. The aim is to create an effective treatment for the epidemic of heart failure that is growing in Australia and around the world. 

Better treatments for ovarian cancer  

Professor Anna deFazio is working to deliver personalised treatments for women with ovarian cancer. 

Ovarian cancer is complex, and current treatments are not equally effective in all patients. Our Centre for Cancer Research has implemented a program to analyse each individual patient’s cancer cells, then match the patient with an appropriate clinical trial based on the molecular characteristics of their cancer. The long-term aim is to improve patient outcomes by integrating precision medicine into their routine care. 

Cornerning the melanomas that aren't caused by the sun 

Professor Graham Mann led research that found rare melanomas aren't caused by sun exposure.

Our Centre for Cancer Research has shown in a landmark genome sequencing study that melanomas of the hands, feet and internal body surfaces are a very different disease from ‘regular’ melanomas of the skin. These cancers occur all around the world and are hard to treat, so this is a big step towards improving their prevention as well as outcomes for patients. 

40% of women lack key pregnancy nutrient 

Iodine is an essentia mineral for healthy brain development in babies.

More than 40% of women are deficient in iodine, an essential mineral for developing healthy brains in babies, new research from our Centre for Diabetes, Obesity and Endocrinology has found. This is important for women planning pregnancy as iodine deficiency could stunt a baby’s brain development. This research will help inform policy and public health advice. 

Clue to treating hepatitis C

Hepatitis C, an infectious disease affecting the liver and a leading cause of liver disease, has a worldwide prevalence of nearly 300 million.

An international team led by our Storr Liver Centre has identified a variant in the interferon gene IL28B, linking it with the treatment of chronic hepatitis C. The finding that inherited genetic variations make a major difference in how patients respond to treatment provides a valuable new lead into treating this infection of worldwide epidemic proportions. 

WORLD FIRST: one drop of blood could save your life 

Dr Benjamin Tang and his team have developed a world first test to identify which influenza patients will need urgent, life-saving, medical treatment.

In a world first, a team from our Centre for Immunology and Allergy Research has developed a blood test to identify which influenza patients are at risk of developing life-threatening secondary infections, such as pneumonia, that require urgent treatment. The test will help front-line doctors treat flu patients quickly before the infection overwhelms the patients, and will therefore help save many lives during flu season.

Adolescents' eyes could reveal cardiovascular disease risk

Associate Professor Bamini Gopinath led the research, which found that blood vessels in ther retina could be indicative of future cardiovascular disease risk.

Research from our Centre for Vision Research has shown that adolescents with poorer scores in social and mental wellbeing have structural changes in their retinal blood vessels that could be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in later life. The research shows that adolescents – particularly males – with poorer wellbeing had wider arteriolar and narrower venular blood vessels in the retina, an indicator of future cardiovascular disease risk.

 

 

 

 

 

Researchers identify multiple sclerosis risk genes 

Professor Graeme Stewart has identified major common genteic variants that contribute to MS.

Scientists from our Centre for Immunology and Allergy Research have drawn a link between the genetic and environmental circumstances of multiple sclerosis (MS), which affects 2.1 million people worldwide. The study found there are more than 100 genetic factors of MS, which is characterised by the scarring of tissue in the central nervous system.

 

 

 

 

 

Taking the guesswork out of depression 

Dr Mayuresh Korgaonkar co-authored the paepr, which used a new brain scan technique combnied with patient information to predict whether a person with depression is likely to improve with anti-depressant medication.

Our Brain Dynamics Centre has developed a test that uses MRI scanning to predict which patients will respond positively to common anti-depressant medications. Up until now, prescribing anti-depressant medication has largely been guesswork and finding the right drug treatment could take years. The finding has the potential to enhance critical service delivery for mental health. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Understanding sleep apnoea

The Ludwig Engel Centre performs sleep studies to help understand the link between sleep disorders and cancer. 

Obstructive sleep apnoea has detrimental effects on sleep-quality and health. Researchers from our Ludwig Engel Centre for Respiratory Research are examining whether sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnoea interact with cancer. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WORLD FIRST: protein that causes liver disease discovered

Professor Jacob George and Associate Professor Mohammed Elsam led the research study.

Scientists from our Storr Liver Centre have identified that variations in the interferon lambda 3 (INFL3) protein are responsible for tissue damage in the liver, paving the way for new treatments to be developed. This important discovery will play a vital role in reducing the burden of liver disease that cost Australia more than $50 billion each year. 

 

 

 

 

 

The Blue Mountains Eye Study

The Blue Mountains Eye Study is one of the largest epidemiological studies of eye diseases.

Our Centre for Vision Research is leading one of the largest and longest epidemiology studies of eye diseases in the world – the Blue Mountains Eye Study. The study investigates major diseases threatening vision and hearing in older Australians. Since its inception in 1992, the study has become a benchmark population-based study in ophthalmology, forming the basis for major research projects and publications. 

 

 

 

WORLD FIRST: scientists find where HIV 'hides'

Associate Professor Sarah Palmer, group leader of the HIV Reservoir Group, led the research.

In a decades-long game of hide and seek, scientists from our Centre for Virus Research have confirmed for the very first time the specific immune memory T-cells where infectious HIV ‘hides’ in the human body during anti-HIV therapy to evade detection by the immune system. The team is now working towards targeting these cells with new therapies aimed at fully eliminating HIV from the body.

 

 

 

 

Professor Philip O'Connell helped lead the Islet Transplant Program at Westmead.

 

AUSTRALIAN FIRST: curing type 1 diabetes

Pioneering research from our Centre for Transplant and Renal Research has led to the development of Australia’s first successful Islet Transplant Program. This procedure gives life-saving hope to high-risk diabetes sufferers by transplanting healthy pancreas cells into the recipient’s liver. Years later, many patients remain insulin-free.

 

 

Identifying patients at risk of kidney rejection

The research will pave the way for improvements in long-term survival rates for kidney transplant recipients.

A genetic test developed by our Centre for Transplant and Renal Research can catch early signs of transplant difficulties by identifying 13 genes that predict the development of kidney fibrosis within three months of transplantation. The test will lead to increased kidney graft survival, lower mortality, fewer people returning to dialysis and people having a better quality of life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

AUSTRALIAN FIRST: life-saving hope for leukaemia patients

Professor David Gottleib, former patient Dr David Walsh, and Dr Ken Micklethwaite. 

Leukaemia and lymphoma sufferers will have access to potentially life-saving cancer treatment courtesy of an Australian-first clinical trial out of Westmead. The trial uses a gene-therapy treatment that turbocharges a patient’s immune system to destroy blood cancer cells and fight the disease. Unlike chemotherapy and other cancer treatments, gene-therapy uses living cells, not toxic drugs and chemicals.