Mater Medical Research Institute (MMRI) was established in 1998 originally with a concentration on fundamental scientific research into cancer with a focus on cancer biotherapy.
The MMRI has now broadened to a wide range of fundamental and clinical research and is applying the advances in the cell biology revolution to therapeutic procedures designed to maximise the body's natural defence against cancer.
This world-class research has already contributed to significant advances in patient care. As an affiliate of the University of Queensland, the MMRI has created an environment which will stimulate interaction between research, teaching and health practices.
Further information about the Mater Medical Research Institute is available on their website
Obesity is caused by an energy imbalance where energy intake exceeds energy expended over time. This imbalance has been linked to lifestyle factors such as increased consumption of foods with high levels of sugar and saturated fats, as well as a reduction in physical activity. Overweight and obesity have become world-wide concerns, reaching epidemic proportions.
Overweight and obesity pose a major risk to long term health by increasing the risk of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. It has been estimated that obesity and its associated illnesses cost Australian society and governments a total of $21 billion in 20051.
National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Senior Research Fellow Jon Whitehead and MMRI Director John Prins are undertaking fundamental and clinical research in obesity and diabetes and have identified a novel factor in humans which controls how and when fat cells develop (fibroblast growth factor).
Internationally recognised research at MMRI is exploring fibroblast growth factor and other factors which make some individuals prone to obesity and diabetes with a view to preventing these diseases or providing improved therapeutic options.
Stem cells within the bone marrow are responsible for the production of all blood and immune cells, known as Haematopoietic Stem Cells. Understanding the biology of the stem cells is critical to developing better treatments for blood diseases including leukaemia.
The Mater Medical Research Institute Haematopoietic Stem Cell (HSC) team led by Associate Professor Jean-Pierre Levesque has shown how the local micro-environment surrounding the stem cells in the bone affects their behaviour in two papers published in the prestigious journal Blood.
In the first paper they show that stem cells reside in a special niche. It appears that the stem cells prefer an environment that is low in oxygen concentration and that manipulating the oxygen concentration will affect the behaviour of the stem cells.
In the second paper they show that the bone marrow macrophages (specialised white blood cells) are pivotal to maintaining the stem cell niche and bone formation. The loss of these macrophages leads to the stem cells moving out into the blood and stops the bone formation.
Using this new knowledge to manipulate the micro-environment within the bone marrow has important implications for bone marrow transplantation as well as bone formation and is a potential novel therapeutic approach for leukaemia and bone diseases.
An estimated three million stillbirths occur each year. One third of stillbirth deaths remain unexplained and after 28 weeks gestation, this figure increases to almost 45%. Almost all (98 per cent) of these deaths occur in low and middle income countries.
Mater Medical Research Institute (MMRI) has secured funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reduce the stillbirth rate in low to middle income countries, with measurable change by 2020.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant - for US$264,003 - will provide MMRI Deputy Director and lead researcher Associate Professor Vicki Flenady with the funding to bring together an international committee of experts in maternal and child health to oversee the production of a series of six papers on stillbirth to be published in world-renowned medical journal The Lancet in early 2011.
The project team consists of international experts - from South Africa, Pakistan, USA, UK, Norway - working with key global organisations, including the World Health Organisation, to effect change.
A/Prof Vicki Flenady is confident The Lancet Stillbirth Series has the potential to draw attention and systematically address gaps to promote action, as many stillbirths could be avoided.
The series will focus specifically on some of the real challenges in countries with weaker health systems and options for addressing these.
“Through this worldwide research collaboration, we are hopeful that we will be able to improve health outcomes for mothers and newborns and raise the profile of this highly tragic event,” she said.