A human systems biology centre for Sydney

_MG_8059“We’ll be able to ask individual immune cells where they’ve been and who they’ve been talking to…”

The University of Sydney and The Centenary Institute will establish the Ramaciotti Centre for Human Systems Biology in 2014 following the announcement last night of the $1 million Ramaciotti Biomedical Research Award.

The award was made to the Centenary Institute’s Prof Barbara Fazekas de St Groth and her colleagues Prof Nicholas King, University of Sydney and Dr Adrian Smith, Centenary Institute. Prof Fazekas is also Assistant Director of the Centenary Institute.

“At the heart of the Centre will be a unique technology that will allow us to study millions of individual white blood cells and reveal where they’ve been and who they’ve been talking to,” says Prof Fazekas. Continue reading

Professors win prestigious RPA Foundation Medal

Outstanding research into bacterial skin infections has won leading clinician and Centenary Laboratory Head the shared honour of the prestigious RPA Foundation Medal – Royal Prince Alfred Hospital’s, highest accolade.

Professor Wolfgang Weninger, Immune Imaging

Professor Wolfgang Weninger, Head of Immune Imaging

Professor Wolfgang Weninger, who heads up Centenary Institute’s Immune Imaging program, and Professor Paul Torzillo, RPA’s Head of Department of Respiratory Medicine – were announced joint winners, each taking home $35,000 to invest in medical and health-based research.

Dermatology expert Professor Weninger was honoured for his research into the mechanisms of skin inflammation and infection. In particular, his group is interested how the function of the skin immune system is inhibited by highly infectious bacteria and other microbes. Continue reading

Immune balance key to good health

Immune systemAt the Centenary Institute we’re learning more about the immune system to help in the fight against cancer.

Why is it that some of our individual immune systems are susceptible to particular diseases while others are protected?

Is our western lifestyle increasing chronic diseases such as asthma and diabetes?

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Insight Centenary: The possibility of medical research

The possibility of what we can discover from the very fundamental research we do on chronic diseases is what makes my work really interesting.

PhD scholar Tom Guy, T cell Biology

PhD scholar Tom Guy, T cell Biology

As a child, some of my close family suffered from cancer, so when I started university I became fascinated with the study of tumour immunology. I found it intriguing that people were looking to the immune system to fight off cancer as a new form of treatment.

Now that I’m working at Centenary I’ve been able to do 
just that. I’m essentially investigating the best strategy for the immune system to stop tumour growth. I look at two cell types, CD4 T cells and B cells, and how these two cells work together to kill tumours once regulatory T cells (T regs) are switched off. T regs are the network managers of our immune system. Continue reading

Nobel Laureate Professor Rolf Zinkernagel visits Centenary

Nobel Laureate Professor Rolf Zinkernagel engaged in a dynamic round table discussion with Centenary Institute scientists this morning.

Professor Rolf Zinkernagel

Professor Rolf Zinkernagel at the Centenary Institute

Professor Zinkernagel – Professor Emeritus of The University of Zurich, Switzerland – is the 1996 Nobel Laureate (with Professor Peter Doherty) in Medicine “for research on the biochemical mechanism with which the immune system recognises and destroys virus-infected cells”.

Five of Centenary’s scientists were excited to have the privilege of presenting and discussing their latest immunologically based research to their peers and the internationally renowned superstar of the scientific and medical world. Continue reading

New immune cells hint at eczema cause

Dr Ben RoedigerSydney researchers have discovered a new type of immune cell in skin that plays a role in fighting off parasitic invaders such as ticks, mites, and worms, and could be linked to eczema and allergic skin diseases.

The team from the Immune Imaging and T cell Laboratories at the Centenary Institute worked with colleagues from SA Pathology in Adelaide, the Malaghan Institute in Wellington, New Zealand and the USA.

The new cell type is part of a family known as group 2 innate lymphoid cells (ILC2) which was discovered less than five years ago in the gut and the lung, where it has been linked to asthma. But this is the first time such cells have been found in the skin, and they are relatively more numerous there.

“Our data show that these skin ILC2 cells are likely to supress or stimulate inflammation under different conditions,” says Dr Ben Roediger, a research officer in the Immune Imaging Laboratory at Centenary headed by Professor Wolfgang Weninger. “They also suggest a potential link to allergic skin diseases.” Continue reading

Insight Centenary: A blog series from our scientists

by Thomas Tu, postdoctoral research officer, liver cell biology laboratory.

Morning (7-9am)

Insight Centenary

Thomas Tu is the lastest member of our Liver Cell Biology lab

Sometimes the little scientist in me wakes up early. Catching the train, I look around and I’m surrounded by walking, talking, reading ecosystems. Crowding along the platform are sentient islands of interactions between billions of cells. Healthy environments are self-correcting, stable and all work to a common harmonious goal. Mostly, our bodies are no different: many (such as the respiratory, immune, and nervous) systems working together seamlessly. They are deeply complex; each system is composed of organs that are, in turn, made up of tissues that are composed of cells.

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From the prick of a rose thorn to a better understanding of ageing


Professor Weninger, Immune Imaging Group Head

Following the prick of a rose thorn, a paper cut, or an infection our bodies start to fight back. And the defence begins with inflammation. That inflamed, tender, red patch we all know as the hallmark of a wound or infection is the result of certain white blood cells summoning the troops and increasing the blood supply to deal with a wound or invasion.

Professor Wolfgang Weninger, head of Centenary’s Immune Imaging program, who leads our work in research, says “understanding inflammation is becoming an important topic across Centenary, helping us understand cardiovascular disease, organ rejection and auto-immune diseases, for example. Another important issue is ageing. Our immune system response changes with age. It’s part of the process of ageing, where the body becomes less and less capable of coping with destructive events.”

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Students tie for first place in 2012 USYD Immunology and Infectious Diseases Honours program

Vascular Research

Congratulations to Elizabeth Powter (Vascular Biology) and David MacDonald (Liver Immunology), who tied for first place in the class of 2012 USYD Immunology and Infectious Diseases Honours program. There were 19 students in the program this year, 9 of whom were based at the Centenary Institute.

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How a simple infection can lead to something much worse


Dr Chris Jolly has made an important contribution to understanding how infections can trigger autoimmune diseases

The Centenary Institute has made an important contribution to a significant study that suggests how infections can trigger serious autoimmune diseases such as rheumatic fever.

The research, just published in the international journal Immunity, shows how, in unusual circumstances, the B cells of the immune system occasionally work against the body, producing antibodies that attack the cells of our own organs—in the case of rheumatic fever, the heart.

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