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Centenary Institute - Medical Research
Centenary Institute - Medical Research

Inflammation in the spotlight

The Centenary Institute has held its inaugural ‘Inflammation Symposium’ on 13 and 14 July, highlighting the latest in medical research across the field of inflammation and disease.

Bringing together Centenary researchers, as well as world-leading inflammation researchers from across Australia and overseas, the aim was to feature the strength of Centenary’s inflammation research, to promote discussion and to extend collaboration opportunities to maximise research outcomes.

Professor Phil Hansbro (pictured), Director of the Centenary UTS Centre for Inflammation and symposium convener, was pleased at how successful and informative the two-day symposium was.

“We were delighted to have presentations from experts from high profile inflammation centres located within the University of Queensland; the Hudson and Garvan Institutes of Medical Research and the University of Manchester (UK).”

“The symposium provided an ideal platform to define capabilities and to explore ways to potentially extend research activity and collaborations between institutions. Enabling collaborations can benefit investigator studies and can also aid in developing new funding opportunities,” said Professor Hansbro.

Presentations at the symposium included current studies on lung and mucosal immunity, liver inflammation, the aged vasculature and the role of the gut-lung axis in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).


Anti-inflammatory benefits from gut bacteria found in fish and humans

Researchers at the Centenary Institute have found that sensitivity of the immune system to ‘good’ gut bacteria is present in zebrafish, proving that the ability of an animal to benefit from good gut bugs is evolutionarily conserved whether you walk or swim.

The study, published in the science journal ‘Gut Microbes’, was an international effort led by Centenary Institute researchers with collaborators from the Duke University School of Medicine, USA and Macquarie University, Sydney.

Using transparent zebrafish embryos, the researchers found that zebrafish inflammatory immune cells are calmed by the addition of butyrate. Butyrate is an important ‘short chain fatty acid’ molecule that is produced when good bacteria ferment dietary fibre in the gut–it’s widely touted as a treatment for a range of inflammatory diseases in humans.

“We found that butyrate treatment on zebrafish reduced inflammatory markers on important immune cells called macrophages (a type of white blood cell) that are the generals of the immune system and that help fight inflammatory diseases,” said Dr Pradeep Cholan (pictured right), lead author of the study and research officer in the Immune-Vascular Interactions Laboratory in the Centenary Institute’s Tuberculosis Research Program.

“From an evolutionary perspective, the fact that zebrafish neutrophils (another type of white blood cell) use the same receptor as human neutrophils to ‘sense’ butyrate and activate anti-inflammatory benefits, is yet another example of co-evolution between animals and their gut bacteria for mutual benefit,” said senior author of the study Dr Stefan Oehlers (pictured left), Head of the Centenary Institute Immune-Vascular Interactions Laboratory and also affiliated with the Discipline of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the University of Sydney.

This study underpins a wider body of research at the Centenary Institute using transparent zebrafish embryos to analyse the interactions between animals and their gut bacteria during inflammatory disease states.

“We have been excellent at using zebrafish to find ‘bad’ bacteria that cause or worsen diseases in people, but here we show that these tiny fish could contribute to the finding of ‘good’ bugs or prebiotics that act like a natural ibuprofen,” said Dr Oehlers.

The research was funded by the NHMRC, the NSW Health Early-Mid Career Fellowships Scheme and the University of Sydney.

Publication: Conserved anti-inflammatory effects and sensing of butyrate in zebrafish.

Read the full media release here.

Prime 7 News interviews Professor Phil Hansbro

Professor Phil Hansbro, Deputy Director at the Centenary Institute and Director of the Centenary UTS Centre for Inflammation has been interviewed by Prime7 News on his new study that will be focused on exploring the health impacts of people’s exposure to bushfire smoke.

The study, a collaboration between the Centenary Institute and the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), will assess how bushfire smoke affects the airways, lungs and other organs and will determine what the long-term consequences of this exposure could be.

Click here to view the Prime7 news story online.

Click here to find out more about Professor Hansbro and his respiratory and inflammation based research.

COVID-19 research targets human enzymes

Centenary Institute researchers have examined the critical role of human enzymes and the coronavirus in a newly published scientific review article that explores potential strategies for COVID-19 disease treatment and management.

The review article published in the prestigious ‘Journal of Diabetes’, seeks to explain how the human enzyme dipeptidyl peptidase (DPP4), which is a driver of diabetes severity, could be exacerbating COVID-19.

“COVID-19 is more severe in people who have type 2 diabetes, obesity and related chronic diseases,” says Professor Mark Gorrell (Head of the Centenary Institute Liver Enzymes in Metabolism and Inflammation Program) and senior author of the review article.

“We also see more DPP4 made in people with diabetes, obesity and related chronic diseases. Drugs that target DPP4 enzyme activity are regularly taken by many people for type 2 diabetes. Such drugs may have immune system and cardioprotective effects that could be beneficial in COVID-19 cases,” he says.

The review article notes that DPP4, which is known to be the key receptor for the MERS-coronavirus (Middle East respiratory syndrome) might also be an additional or alternate port of entry for SARS-CoV-2 into human cells.

“COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which is similar to SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. Each of these viruses attach to and enter human cells by binding to specific human enzymes,” says Professor Gorrell.

“Recent research suggests that SARS-CoV-2 can bind to both DPP4 and the ACE2 enzyme and so have two ways to infect our lungs and gut. Once we fully understand this process, we may be able to develop a drug that can help disrupt this viral activity,” he says.

Professor Gorrell, an expert in human proteases (enzymes that break down proteins) has recently launched a new research program in response to the growing COVID-19 pandemic.

“TMPRSS2 (Transmembrane protease, serine 2) is essential for SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 infection. This protease activates the viral protein on the coronavirus necessary for virus cell entry at the start of viral infection in the human body,” he says.

“We are looking to develop a selective TMPRSS2 inhibitor that is both effective and very safe using our expertise and a unique drug screening approach. The successful development of such an inhibitor could be utilised as a novel therapy for both past and current, and possibly future, SARS-CoV coronaviruses.”

“I’m optimistic that our research will contribute meaningfully to the global COVID-19 health response,” he says.

Read the full media release here.

Further Information on the Centenary Institute’s coronavirus activity can be found here.

Centenary Institute Oration now available for download

Catch-up on the recent Centenary Institute Oration – delivered by science journalist and health broadcaster Dr Michael Mosley.

Dr Mosley spoke on the topic of inflammation, obesity and depression.

Over the course of an hour, Dr Mosley emphasised the point that intermittent fasting, exercising and a switch to a Mediterranean style (anti inflammatory) diet were all helpful in preventing disease.

The talk can be downloaded now from the Radio National web site – please click here.

Sea sponge could be key in fight against TB

An Australian sea sponge could hold the key to successfully combatting the deadly disease tuberculosis (TB), a new study from the Centenary Institute and the University of Sydney suggests.

Reported in the journal ‘Nature Scientific Reports’, the sea sponge was found to contain an exceptionally potent anti-bacterial agent able to inhibit Mycobacterium tuberculosis–the bacteria that causes TB in humans.

Every year more than 10 million people fall ill with TB and 1.8 million die from the disease. The new finding has the potential to open-up a new avenue of research to target what is the world’s top infectious disease killer.

“TB is a major global health problem and our battle against this resilient and deadly disease is incredibly difficult,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Diana Quan, a researcher affiliated with the Centenary Institute and the Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunity Group led by Professor Jamie Triccas at the University of Sydney.

“Effective antibiotics for TB are difficult to develop, there are constant issues with new drug-resistant TB strains and our current treatment approach for TB is both lengthy and complicated,” she said. “There is an urgent need for new drugs and antibiotics which can shorten and simplify TB treatment in order to combat this burgeoning TB pandemic.”

In the reported study, a sea sponge from the Tedaniidae family was examined by Dr Quan and found to yield compounds that displayed strong inhibitory potency against TB and also importantly, against drug-resistant strains of the disease. Following analysis, the active component from the sponge was identified as bengamide B which was also found to be non-toxic when tested against human cell lines.

“This is an extremely exciting finding,” said Dr Quan. “Bengamide B shows significant potential as a new class of compound for the treatment of tuberculosis and also importantly, for the treatment of drug-resistant TB which is an ever increasing obstacle to TB eradication around the world.”

The sea sponge was harvested off the Queensland coast and was one of approximately 1,500 different marine samples tested by Dr Quan for possible effectiveness against TB over the course of a three year program.

Read the full media release here.

ABC news interview with Dr Quan

Dr Michael Mosley delivers Centenary Institute Oration

Internationally recognised science journalist and health broadcaster Dr Michael Mosley has delivered the 2019 ‘Centenary Institute Oration’ to a crowd of more than 1000 researchers and members of the public at Sydney’s International Convention Centre.

The Oration, developed by the Centenary Institute to help inform the community as to the exciting health advances that are taking place via research, was timed to coincide with the World Congress on Inflammation which was also sponsored by the Institute.

In keeping with the theme of Inflammation (which underlies many acute and chronic conditions and which drives the initiation and progression of cancer and cardiovascular disease), Dr Mosley spoke on the topic of ‘Inflammation, obesity and depression’.

Over the course of an hour, Dr Mosley made the point that science is now supporting new ways to treat inflammation driven conditions. Emphasised were intermittent fasting, exercising and a switch to a Mediterranean style (anti inflammatory) diet.

The Oration was followed by an interactive Q&A session with the audience. Many were eager to find out more as to how a combination of healthy eating and lifestyle choices could potentially help improve lives.

The Centenary Institute wishes to thank Dr Mosley for his support of the Oration and also for his ongoing efforts in helping promote the latest in health-related research to the wider community.

The talk can be downloaded now from the Radio National web site – please click here.

AFR article – featuring Prof Mathew Vadas and Prof Jennifer Gamble

The Australian Financial Review has written about the ground-breaking medial research being carried out by the Centenary Institute’s Prof Mathew Vadas and Prof Jennifer Gamble.

Click here to read more about the endothelium and its involvement in inflammation which is now being viewed as the driver of most chronic disease.

Centenary Institute research boost with NHMRC Investigator Grants

Professor Philip Hansbro, Deputy Director at the Centenary Institute and Professor John Rasko AO, Head of the Centenary Institute’s Gene and Stem Cell Therapy Program have both been awarded prestigious National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Investigator Grants. The Investigator Grants scheme is one of the NHMRC’s new flagship funding arrangements supporting outstanding health and medical researchers.

Professor Philip Hansbro’s funding will support further research into the development of new preventions and treatments for chronic respiratory diseases.

“Respiratory diseases are among the leading causes of all deaths world-wide,” says Professor Hansbro.

“This grant will fund our research into developing a comprehensive ‘molecular map’ for specific respiratory diseases including Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), lung cancer and severe asthma. This will increase our knowledge of how these diseases develop and progress, providing us with new opportunities to attempt treatments and cures.”

Professor John Rasko AO, Head of the Centenary Institute’s Gene and Stem Cell Therapy Program and Head of Department, Cell & Molecular Therapies at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital will receive funding for his research focused on driving clinical cell and gene therapy in Australia.

“Harnessing the power of our body’s own cells and genetic therapies, we are witnessing a medical revolution in curing serious diseases including hereditary bleeding and anaemia as well as specific forms of cancer. This new federal funding will facilitate our internationally acclaimed basic and clinical research Program designed to improve the health of Australians”, says Professor Rasko.

Read the full media release here.

Dr Michael Mosley to deliver ‘Centenary Institute Oration’ on obesity and depression

Dr Michael Mosley, British physician, science journalist and documentary maker will deliver a free public talk at the 14th World Congress on Inflammation, in Sydney on Monday 16th September 2019.

Internationally recognised for his television shows and his best-selling books (including the 5+2 diet), Dr Mosley will deliver the Centenary Institute Oration, ‘Inflammation: a new approach to obesity and depression’.

Organised and hosted by leading medical research organisation the Centenary Institute, the Oration will be free for members of the general public to attend. They can expect an entertaining and informative talk from Dr Mosley that makes the human body, science and research accessible to all.

“Obesity and depression are widespread in Australia and it appears as if there is a common underlying mechanism involved: inflammation” explains Dr Michael Mosley. “I’m very much looking forward to talking about these very significant health issues which affect and impact so many Australians today.”

Read the full media release here.