La Trobe awarded $5.8m in NHMRC grants

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has awarded almost $6 million to La Trobe University in Ideas Grants.

The four new research projects focus on improving rehabilitation following a stroke or brain injury, and treatments following heart failure or stroke.

La Trobe Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Industry Engagement) Professor Susan Dodds said the researchers were focused on improving lives and health outcomes of millions of people around the world.

“This funding enables some of La Trobe’s and Australia’s leading scientists to advance our understanding and treatment of some of the most common but debilitating diseases faced by our communities.”

Professor Miranda Rose, Professor Damminda Alahakoon and Dr Dana Wong - Communication Connect: Improving long term communication and mental health outcomes following stroke and brain injury

The 250,000 Australians living in the community with communication disability caused by stroke and traumatic brain injury experience unacceptably high rates of depression, anxiety, inactivity and social isolation. Their carers experience high levels of burden, and they struggle to access health and community services. In this project, La Trobe researchers will lead a multidisciplinary team from four universities to develop and test a program of community and self-managed care, aimed at reversing these negative impacts and reducing reliance on high cost health care services.

Professor Leeanne Carey, Professor Damminda Alahakoon and Rashmika Nawaratne - Staying Connected: Personalising stroke recovery and rehabilitation through new technologies for people with stroke living at home

One in four people experience a stroke. On return home the person with stroke is challenged to sense, move, think, and engage in valued activities with an altered brain and body. The current approach to ongoing recovery is limited. Researchers will monitor for markers of recovery using personalised sensors and artificial intelligence. They will deliver bursts of therapy at point of need and provide feedback through new technologies and a central hub. They aim for patients to stay connected, and to recover at home.

Professor Grant Drummond and Dr Maria Jelinic - Targeting the NLRP3 inflammasome and interleukin-18 in hypertensive heart failure

Heart failure is a common complication of hypertension and a major cause of death and disability worldwide. This project will characterise a newly identified inflammatory pathway believed to be a major cause of the enlargement and scarring of the heart that accompanies hypertension. Researchers will trial drugs that block this inflammatory pathway to determine their suitability as future therapies.

Professor Chris Sobey and Dr Helena Kim - Amnion cell therapy for acute and chronic stroke

The research team are studying human amnion epithelial cells (AECs) as a new therapy for stroke. If it is discovered that the protective effects of AECs are unaffected by a ‘clot-buster’ drug, the trial will broaden to include patients who have received clot lysis therapy. Researchers will test whether exosomes given intravenously or intranasally are similarly protective.

Professor John Mariadason - E-ASIA Joint funding for biliary tract cancer

In addition to the Ideas Grants, La Trobe University Professor John Mariadason and his team from the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, as the La Trobe University School of Cancer Medicine, who have been successful in securing funding through the NHMRC e-ASIA Joint Research Program Scheme for their project Novel Precision-based treatments for biliary tract cancer. This project will be conducted in collaboration with researchers from Khon Kaen University in Thailand and Keio University in Japan.

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