Publish Date: 
Monday, May 18, 2020 - 10:30

QUT and UQ researchers based at TRI are part of team looking to improve health outcomes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities by better understanding genetic association with chronic disease.

The three-year project is one of 17 announced by the Minister for Health Greg Hunt, and has  received $1.6 million funding under the Federal Government’s Genomics Health Futures Mission.

Advance Queensland Research Fellow at QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation and Faculty of Health School of Biomedical Sciences, Dr Shiv Nagaraj, is heading the international multidisciplinary research team, which includes collaborators from The University of Queensland, Australian National University, the United States and India.

Dr Nagaraj, whose lab is at TRI, said the team will use whole genome sequencing to understand the genetic makeup of the Tiwi people, who live on Bathurst and Melville Islands off the coast of the Northern Territory, to study the genetic links associated to chronic diseases. 

“Our primary focus is to investigate and understand genetic predisposition for developing chronic kidney disease and associated conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure,” he said.

“There is a gap in our knowledge of how genetics might predispose Indigenous Australians to chronic diseases resulting in reduced life expectancy. This project is an important step towards bridging that gap and has implications for reducing disease burden among Indigenous communities.

“Better understanding of genetic contributions to disease can lead to earlier, accurate diagnosis and inform targeted prevention strategies and precise, personalised treatments.”

Project team members with Dr Nagaraj are Professor Wendy Hoy (project co-lead) and Dr Aideen McInerney-Leo (University of Queensland/TRI), Dr Brendan McMorran (Australian National University), Dr Ryan Taft (Illumina Inc, USA), Professor Cheryl Winkler and Dr Jeff Kopp (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, USA), Professor Graeme Suthers (Sonic Genetics), and Dr Rohit Gupta (IIT-Chennai, India).

This article was first published by QUT.

Photo: QUT Research Fellow Dr Shiv Nagaraj