Australia’s largest group of inflammation researchers

Inflammation is at the core of life-threatening severe COVID-19 cases. More than 100 researchers at Hudson Institute investigate the role of inflammation across a range of disease areas. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that their expertise is now more important than ever.

Hudson Institute, based in the Monash Precinct, houses the largest group of inflammation researchers in Australia. This group has more than doubled in the past three years to over 100 scientists, attracting significant commercial, federal and philanthropic funding.

The Institute is recognised nationally and internationally for research and innovation in understanding the impact of inflammation on human health and the delivery of new treatments for a range of infant, child and adult health conditions.

Normally, inflammation is the body’s natural reaction to infection and the first critical step in activating the body’s full immune response. However, if uncontrolled, inflammation can lead to a range of debilitating and life-threatening conditions—acute respiratory syndromes, sepsis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, pneumonia, endometriosis, infertility and even cancer.

The nuclei of mouse fibroblasts illustrated by Hudson Institute Inflammation Researchers
The nuclei of mouse fibroblasts treated with a low dose of a chemotherapy drug for 2 days. The vesicles contain damaged DNA (revealed by the green and red overlay).

In addition, 50 per cent of all deaths worldwide can be attributed to chronic destructive inflammation in a wide range of diseases such as cancer, stroke, diabetes, heart, kidney and liver disease, and infectious diseases.

Our COVID-19 research

As scientists around the world race to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine, Hudson Institute researchers are using their world-leading inflammation research expertise to develop treatments to mitigate the deadly inflammation caused by SARS-CoV-2.

COVID-19, hyper-inflammation and the ‘cytokine storm’ 

The SARS-Cov-2 virus has highlighted just how damaging out-of-control inflammation can be, leading to death in the most serious cases. COVID-19 can progress quickly and unexpectedly from a mild disease into an overwhelming and lethal later-stage condition, following a severe inflammatory response from the body’s immune system. This can lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome, heart and kidney failure, blood clotting problems and septic shock.

The triggers of the severe hyper-inflammatory response in some COVID-19 patients is not fully understood. This is what we do know: several proteins called pro-inflammatory cytokines help to regulate a healthy inflammatory process in the body to protect against infection or illness. However, in some COVID-19 cases these proteins flood the system in an extreme reaction to infection, causing a ‘cytokine storm’. This is also known as a ‘hyper-inflammatory’ response and can lead to life-threatening acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

Restricting this inflammation could help save lives before antiviral therapies and vaccines are developed and ready. COVID-19 can also leave healthy people with lingering debilitating symptoms. Without safe and successful treatments, the threat of SARS-CoV-2 infection is particularly foreboding, with implications not only for the most vulnerable, but potentially for all our loved ones – young and old.

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Hudson Institute communications
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