Early career researchers first in line for collaborative research grants
In a first of its kind, seven early career research grants have been awarded from a funding collaboration between the Metro North Office of Research, the University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology, and QIMR Berghofer.
Executive Director of Research Professor Scott Bell said this is an exciting step in fostering strong research careers early.
“Early career researchers can find it difficult to access funding, so this is precedent-setting for us,” Professor Bell said.
“The grants are an excellent way of building long-term collaboration between clinicians, researchers and academics, and to continually strengthen our research programs, results, and ultimately, outcomes for our patients.”
Research partners The University of Queensland, QUT, and QIMR Berghofer matched funding for the grants.
One of the grants went to the investigative team led by early career researcher Dr Chandima Divithotewala of The Prince Charles Hospital (TPCH), and investigators Dr Timothy Wells (UQ), Professor Daniel Chambers (TPCH and UQ), and Ms Amy Pham (UQ) for a study on infections in lung transplant recipients.
“This grant is a fantastic opportunity to further our research with the team at The Prince Charles Hospital,” Dr Wells said.
“Our collaboration started by only investigating a small number of samples, however has already led to novel treatment for one post-lung transplant patient.
“This grant gives us the resources to expand our research to a much larger cohort.”
Another grant recipient was the investigative team lead by Dr Andrea Warwick of the Redcliffe Hospital, with molecular microbiologist Associate Professor Makrina Totsika (QUT), biomedical scientist Professor Mia Woodruff (QUT), and Dr Andrew Riddell, also of the Redcliffe Hospital, to develop new biofabricated meshes for use in pelvic surgery to treat incontinence and prolapse.
“There have been concerns about synthetic meshes and possible complications, with some products recently withdrawn,” Associate Professor Totsika said.
“So, we are looking at biofabricating meshes from biodegradable polymers that are optimal for application, with the right biological and mechanical properties and balance of structural rigidity and flexibility.
“We are also looking at incorporating antimicrobials to prevent risk of infection and seeding the patient’s own cells into the structure for better integration of the mesh to the patient’s tissue.
“This is an exciting and promising area for application of biomedical technologies and we are very pleased to receive this grant funding.”
The investigative team led by early career researcher Ms Tracey Mackle of Metro North Mental Health (MNMH) has received a grant in collaboration with Dr Lucia Colodro Conde and Professor Sarah Medland from QIMR Berghofer’s Psychiatric Genetics Research Group, and Associate Professor Susan Patterson, also of MNMH, on a project to help tackle mental health issues among new mothers.
“We will collaborate with Metro North to develop and test a screening tool for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in women during pregnancy and after birth,” said Dr Colodro Conde.
“Some women who experience unexpected complications or negative experiences during pregnancy and birth, are at risk of developing PTSD, and if undetected and untreated, this can have devastating consequences.
“We hope this screening tool will help health professionals to accurately detect symptoms of possible PTSD and to provide an early intervention.”
Summary of projects awarded grants:
- A study looking at how and where biofilms (micro-organisms) and neointimas (cellular sheaths produced by the body to coat artificial surfaces) form on cannulae (hollow tubes for insertion into the body) used in ECMO heart / lung machines, and how to re-engineer the surface of a cannula to reduce these.
- A study looking at establishing equivalent dosages using the strong painkillers fentanyl and morphine by inhalation versus intravenously, to avoid the need for the time-consuming insertion of a cannula.
- A study looking at bio-fabricating bio-absorbable meshes for use in incontinence, prolapse and other pelvic surgeries, to avoid the risks associated with non-absorbable synthetic meshes, which sometimes require more surgery to remove.
- A study looking at what the use of a new type of perforated peripheral intravenous catheter (PIVC) design compared to the use of a standard (non-perforated) PIVC has on patient outcomes.
- A study to promote detection and early intervention of perinatal post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by developing and validating a PTSD screening tool that can be used by health professionals and researchers.
- A study to understand the prevalence and importance of—and treatment options for—Gram-negative bacteria that produce ‘inhibitory antibodies’ which protect the bacteria from attack by the body’s immune system, in the context of lung transplantation.
- A study to look at the prevalence and relevance of somatic mutations (genetic alterations acquired by a cell that can be passed on to cell progeny) in endometriosis lesions, which may be associated with more severe symptoms, physical appearance, or growth characteristics.
Detailed summary of projects awarded grants:
- Biofilm and neointima formation on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) cannulae: ECMO therapy provides heart and/or lung support to critically ill patients. ECMO cannulae are tubes inserted into major blood vessels to circulate blood through the ECMO machine. Micro-organisms can live on ECMO cannulae, creating communities called biofilms which can become resistant to antibiotics. It is thought that neointimas—cellular sheaths produced by the body to coat the artificial cannula surfaces— encourage the adherence of micro-organisms to cannulae.This study is looking better understanding how and where biofilms and neointimas form to inform re-engineering the physical properties of the cannula surface to provide a less conducive environment for micro-organism growth.
- Pharmacokinetics of inhaled fentanyl and morphine: Pain due to trauma or other causes is common in patients treated prehospital by paramedics. Optimal treatment is strong analgesia (often fentanyl/morphine) given intravenously (IV). However, inserting an intravenous cannula prehospital takes time. An alternative, inhaled methoxyflurane, is commonly given pre-hospital.The aim of this study is to determine the dose-equivalence of intravenous and inhaled fentanyl and morphine.
- Biological pelvic meshes for pelvic surgery: Pelvic meshes are commonly used in surgery to treat incontinence and prolapse. Non-absorbable synthetic meshes can cause complications that require surgical removal.This study is looking possibilities for removing these risks by biofabricating bioabsorbable mesh that will have optimal degradation, mechanical and biological properties and none of the risks associated with placement of synthetic material.
- Standard versUs peRForated peripheral intravenous catheters: Peripheral intravenous catheters (PIVCs) are the most commonly used invasive medical device worldwide, but they have a high failure rate of 40-50%, requiring that they are removed, discarded and replaced which can be unpleasant for the patient.
- This study will look at what effects the use of a novel perforated PIVC design has on patient outcomes compared with a standard (non-perforated) PIVC.
- Pregnancy, Birth and Trauma; designing a screening tool for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the perinatal setting: Pregnancy, childbirth and the early post-partum necessitates significant adjustment physically, socially and emotionally. For some women, particularly those with histories of trauma or abuse, unexpected complications or negative experiences during pregnancy/birth can cause symptoms of PTSD.
- The aim of this study is to promote detection and early diagnosis and intervention of perinatal PTSD. This project will develop and validate a screening tool that can be used by health professionals and researchers, and will assess the prevalence and correlates of perinatal PTSD in the study sample.
- Outfoxing Pseudomonas and Burkholderia infection in lung transplant recipients: Bacterial infection, particularly with the Gram-negative bacteria Pseudomonas and Burkholderia, is a very serious problem in lung transplantation, killing many patients around the world each year. The bacteria seem to outsmart the patient’s immune system by making the patient produce antibodies which protect the bacteria from immune attack.The study is looking at understanding the prevalence and importance of, and treatment options targeting Gram-negative bacteria that produce ‘inhibitory antibodies’ in the context of lung transplantation.
- Somatic mutation in endometriotic lesions and their relationship to disease progression, severity and symptoms: Endometriosis is complex, heterogenic disease characterized by endometrial tissue outside the uterine cavity. It is associated with chronic pelvic pain, has inadequate diagnostic and treatment options and is a significant burden on patients and the health economy. Although the pathogenesis of endometriosis is unclear somatic cancer-driving mutations are found in up to 20% of the lesions. Endometriosis lesions harbouring somatic mutations may be associated with more severe symptoms, physical appearance or growth characteristics.The objective of the study is to determine the prevalence and relevance of somatic mutations in endometriotic lesions.