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New NHMRC grants announced for SVI

Posted: 05th November 2021

SVI scientists have been awarded $2.5 million in the latest round of grants from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). The funding will support the development of a new potential treatment for liver disease, and the investigation of the genetic causes of infertility in women.

The liver disease team is led by Dr Kiryu Yap and Associate Professor Geraldine Mitchell in SVI’s O’Brien Institute Department, and is supported by Professor Wayne Morrison. The three-year grant will support pre-clinical research to develop liver ‘organoids’ made from human adult-derived stem cells.

Chronic liver disease affects more than six million Australians. For people with end-stage disease, the only available treatment option is liver transplant – which is limited by donor shortage and comes with the complications of life-long immunosuppression and risk of organ rejection.

“There is a critical need for new treatment options for liver disease,” says Kiryu.

Kiryu and Geraldine have brought together an expert collaborative team to create liver ‘organoids’ – mini-liver constructs assembled in the lab, that replicate the structure and function of human liver. The liver organoids will be used as replacement liver tissue in conditions of liver disease.

Associate Professor Wayne Crismani leads a team that has received a four-year NHMRC grant to investigate the genetics of infertility in women.

“While causes vary, genetics and rare diseases make a significant contribution to some types of infertility,” says Wayne. “We know that infertility can be associated with other health risks, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.”

“Our team will investigate a condition called premature ovarian insufficiency, which occurs when a woman’s ovaries stop functioning normally before the age of 40. Our aim is to investigate the genes that are implicated in female fertility levels, and better understand their role.”

“We want to address the infertility issues faced by so many people, and are excited to collaborate with community representatives who have long advocated for this research."

The two funded projects involve multi-disciplinary expert teams, with participating institutions including St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, The Royal Children’s Hospital, Monash University and the University of Copenhagen.