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Centenary Institute - Medical Research
Centenary Institute - Medical Research

Grant for research into impact of bushfire smoke on health

Dr Keshav Raj Paudel, an early career researcher at the Centenary UTS Centre for Inflammation has been awarded the prestigious ‘Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ) Maurice Blackburn Grant-In-Aid for Occupational Lung Disease’ for 2021.

The grant, valued at $20,000, will support Dr Paudel’s research into exploring the impact of bushfire smoke particles on respiratory physiology as well as optimising new treatments for this form of exposure.

Announced at the Annual Scientific Meeting for Leaders in Lung Health and Respiratory Science, the grant was awarded to the applicant with the best research proposal based on scientific quality and scientific innovation, combined with the author’s track record.

“I’m extremely honoured to be recognised with this grant,” said Dr Paudel.

“During bushfire events, firefighters and other frontline responders are exposed to heat, bushfire smoke and particulate matter to an extent that cause stress responses and acute inflammatory changes in the lungs. However, the true extent of damage being done to these individuals is still poorly understood.”

“This research will address the knowledge gap related to the harmful health effects of hazardous bushfire smoke exposure and will provide the evidence base for defining safe exposure levels as well as explore preventive and treatment measures.”

The project will be undertaken by Dr Paudel under the supervision of Professor Phil Hansbro, Director, the Centenary UTS Centre for Inflammation.

New treatment hope for asthma and COPD

An international study led by the University of Glasgow, including collaborators from the Centenary Institute, has identified a new class of drugs that could pave the way to a new treatment for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The breakthrough findings, published in the journal ‘Science Translational Medicine’, found that the drugs were able to reverse the symptoms of asthma in animal models.

Researchers also found that the same drugs, when applied to lung samples obtained from human donors, showed effects similar to those seen in the animal models.

Scientists believe that these combined findings offer new hope that these drugs could provide new medicines for human inflammatory lung disease.

The new approach is centred on the activation of a protein that, up until now has been known to respond to good fats contained in our diet. The protein, called free fatty acid receptor 4 (FFA4), is found in the gut and pancreas where it is activated by good dietary fats including the fish oil omega 3. Once activated FFA4 is known to help control levels of glucose in the blood.

Surprisingly the research team found FFA4 to be present in the human lung.

By designing a new class of drugs that activate FFA4 in the lung, the researchers found that the muscle that surrounds the airways relaxes allowing more air to enter the lung. They also found that activators of FFA4 reduced inflammation caused by exposure of mice to pollution, cigarette smoke and allergens like house dust mite that cause asthma.

In this way the researchers have established that activating FFA4 can reverse the key hallmarks of inflammatory lung disease heralding the prospect of new drugs for the treatment of lung disease.

“The study was a truly collaborative effort with some of the experimental work done here in Australia, utilising our world-class facilities, said Professor Phil Hansbro, co-author on the published study and Director of the Centenary UTS Centre for Inflammation.

“I’m optimistic that this breakthrough could lead to life-changing treatments for sufferers of asthma and COPD, both of which can be devastating and deadly diseases,” he said.

Photo (L to R): Publication co-authors from the Centenary Institute, Dr Richard Kim, Professor Phil Hansbro, Dr Chantal Donovan.

The full media release can be found here.

The research publication can be found here.

Leading respiratory scientist recognised for research excellence

Professor Phil Hansbro, Deputy Director and Faculty at the Centenary Institute has been recognised for outstanding contributions to the advancement of knowledge in respiratory medicine and science.

Professor Hansbro accepted the Research Medal at the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand and Australian and New Zealand Society of Respiratory Science Annual Scientific Meeting (TSANZSRA) on the Gold Coast.

“It is a huge honour to receive this award. It means so much to me coming from this society. We have amongst us the best respiratory researchers in Australia and indeed the world. I attend the major respiratory conferences around the world and the quality and importance of the work that Australian researchers do is as good as anywhere and we certainly punch way way above our weight in Australia,” said Professor Hansbro on accepting the award at the Meeting’s Gala Dinner tonight.

Read the full Media Release.

7 News – The link between Eczema & Asthma

Eczema in children is often regarded as just a phase, causing no real harm. That has now changed after new Australian research showed the chance of it helping to create other conditions like asthma is much higher than anyone thought. Dr Andrew Rochford reports.

Click here to see the full story.