MRFF grants – bringing better health to life

By Rob Clancy, staff writer

Two leading Hudson Institute researchers are taking their discoveries closer to the clinic and bringing better health to the lives of preterm babies and Australians with hypertension, thanks to significant new Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) grants.

Associate Professor Jun Yang has received significant new MRFF funding, taking her discoveries closer to the clinic and bringing better health to the lives of Australians with hypertension.
Associate Professor Jun Yang

MRFF hypertension project

Associate Professor Jun Yang and a team from Monash University, University of Adelaide and University of Tasmania, have received an MRFF Clinical Trials Activity grant of $2,290,000 over four years for their CONSEP trial – aiming to increase diagnosis of a major undiagnosed cause of hypertension (high blood pressure).

A/Prof Yang, a Group Head at Hudson Institute and clinical endocrinologist at Monash Health, has previously established that around 10 per cent of people living with hypertension have a potentially curable form known as primary aldosteronism (PA), also called Conn syndrome.

“We already have a simple blood test for PA which opens the door to effective, targeted treatment,” A Prof Yang said. “But so far it’s not something GPs routinely use, which means hundreds of thousands of Australians living with PA-induced hypertension remain undiagnosed.”

“Our CONSEP trial in GP clinics in Melbourne, Hobart and Adelaide will test a new intervention, based on educational outreach and electronic clinical decision support, in a randomised clinical trial, to explore its impact on improving PA detection and patient outcomes.”

MRFF preterm baby project

Dr Courtney McDonald has received significant new MRFF funding, taking her discoveries closer to the clinic and bringing better health to the lives of preterm babies.
Dr Courtney McDonald

Dr Courtney McDonald works to give very preterm babies the best possible start in life and her MRFF Early to Mid-Career Researchers grant, worth $590,134 over four years, will help accelerate that work.

Dr McDonald studies the use of umbilical cord blood (UCB) cell therapy to prevent brain injuries in these tiny babies and this pre-clinical study will examine the use of expanding (increasing) the number of UCB cells delivered, in cases where only small volumes of cells are available.

UCB stem cells have neuroprotective, neuroregenerative and anti-inflammatory properties, so they are collected after birth, processed and re-introduced to the bloodstream in the early weeks of life, for maximum benefit.

“Infants born extremely preterm have a high likelihood of brain injury, particularly damage to the developing white matter, but there are no neonatal interventions that can protect or improve brain development,” Dr McDonald said.

“Expanded UCB (expUCB) is already being used in children for blood disorders, so we know it is safe and preclinical and clinical results show that it can improve white matter development and functional outcomes.

“This study will investigate if expUCB cells are as neuroprotective for preterm white matter development as we have shown for unexpanded UCB cells, and whether expUCB cell administration also improves longer-term brain structure and function.”

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