Professor Caroline Gargett – women’s health

By Rob Clancy, staff writer

Whether it’s working to help women living with the crippling effects of pelvic organ prolapse (POP), end the pain of endometriosis, or even developing new methods of vaginal reconstruction, women’s health is at the forefront of Professor Gargett research.

Professor Caroline Gargett's research is helping women's health with the crippling effects of pelvic organ prolapse (POP).
Professor Caroline Gargett

But that’s not enough for this world-renowned researcher – she is also a mentor to young scientists and a collaborator with numerous institutions on further groundbreaking research. 

World-leading women’s health

Among her highlights of the past 12 months was being the key international member of a team awarded the prestigious $US 1 million Magee Prize for their work on identifying vaginal stem cells to use with new biomaterials, to repair tissue loss in women with compromised vaginal structure and function. 

Their truly multinational project is entitled ‘Vaginal Stem Cells: the missing link in vaginal reconstruction’. 

Prof Gargett‘s research is world-renowned for discovering stem/progenitor cells in human and mouse endometrium, the highly regenerative lining of the uterus, thereby establishing a new field of research in women’s reproductive biology. 

“Having worked on developing tissue engineering constructs for supporting the prolapsed vagina, I knew how important this new area of research would be,” she says. 

“This important research is for women born without a vagina or who have lost much of it via life-saving surgery – it is to give them their lives back.” 

Endometriosis research for women’s health

At Hudson Institute, Prof Gargett is now applying these breakthroughs to common gynaecological disorders, with a research group comprising a new group leader and her team, three postdoctoral scientists, three support staff and six students. 

Her international standing in endometriosis research was recently recognised by the Endometriosis Foundation of America (EndoFound), which named her among the inaugural members of its Scientific Advisory Board. 

She is also on the International Scientific Committee of the Fondation Pour la Recherche sur l’Endométriose in France. 

Pelvic organ prolapse research for women’s health

None of this is slowing her work on POP, and a recent collaboration with engineers and a urogynaecologist from Monash University is showing great promise. 

Using smart technology and bioengineering, the team is developing a smart pessary to monitor and selectively stimulate the pelvic floor muscles. 

“The device is smart because not only will it assist supporting prolapsed pelvic organs, but also in strengthening weakened pelvic floor muscles,” Prof Gargett says. 

The ring-shaped device includes an array of sensors that monitor and profile the pelvic area, and a stimulator that helps with muscle toning.

The device uses intelligent sensing and signal processing techniques, along with ‘stimulators’, to rehabilitate pelvic floor muscles as well, to alleviate symptoms of POP.

It’s hoped the device will undergo clinical trials for the first time in 2023.

In the meantime, Prof Gargett will be keeping herself busy, and keeping Hudson Institute at the forefront of women’s health research.

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