10:16pm Wednesday 26 February 2020

Frontiers of single cell genomics put scientists on the path to developing inflammatory drugs

Human cells

Associate Professor Nold says inflammation is an important response to infection or injury but, if not carefully controlled, can cause conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

“If we can control the mechanisms of IL-37 to block or mimic the body’s inflammatory responses, it could have far-reaching effects on any number of diseases,” Associate Professor Nold said.

The study revealed how the body uses IL-37 as a molecular signal to regulate and control inflammation. To achieve its protective effects, IL-37 uses a pair of very specific receptors on target cells. Binding of these two receptors triggers IL-37 to instruct target cells to execute a cascade of events, which subdue some of the molecular pathways by which the body mounts inflammatory responses.

The Nold team is undertaking further research to decipher how these mechanisms can have medical potential, using the Single Cell Genomics Centre’s technology to analyse activity of genes controlling the receptor’s function. The team is working to harness the powerful functions of this protein to create new drugs that could be used to control the body’s immune system’s inflammatory responses. They anticipate significant interest from pharmaceutical companies in using the results to develop anti-inflammatory drugs that modulate the body’s immune responses.

The Nolds’ research also received a boost from the inaugural $50,000 Fielding Innovation Award, which was established as part of a gift agreement between the Hudson Institute and Melbourne businessman Peter Fielding, to boost commercial activity for the Institute’s scientists, especially while a record-low number of research projects are funded by the government.

The Genomics Centre is being awarded Australia’s first Single Cell Centre of Excellence by internationally-renowned biotechnology company Fluidigm, making it the first in the southern hemisphere. Parliamentary Secretary for Medical Research, Mr Frank McGuire MP, will officially launch the centre before touring the state-of-the-art facility to learn about the ground-breaking research being enabled by the single-cell technology.

The MHTP, a partnership between Hudson Institute of Medical Research, Monash University and Monash Health, brings together clinicians and scientists to directly translate research discoveries into greater prevention, diagnosis and treatments for the community’s greatest health challenges. MHTP’s $87.5 million Translational Research Facility, funded by the Federal Government, is scheduled to open in October.

 Monash University.

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