Author Interviews, Dengue, PLoS, Zika / 04.02.2021

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Gregor J. Devine, Ph.D Mosquito Control LaboratoryQIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute Brisbane, Queensland, Australia MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Scale of the problem: Dengue, Zika and chikungunya are all transmitted by the same mosquito species.  That mosquito, Aedes aegypti, is superbly adapted to the human, urban environment – it lays its eggs and develops in the standing water that collects in the myriad containers associated with modern living (plastic bottles, food packaging, buckets, planters, crumpled tarpaulins etc.). Unusually they rely almost entirely on human blood for their nutritional requirements and they subsequently bite multiple times during each egg laying cycle. That reliance on human blood means that they are usually found resting indoors, a behaviour that also offers them some protection from weather extremes and predators. Once infected, and having incubated the virus until it is transmissible, a mosquito that survives for just a couple of weeks can infect many humans within the same and neighbouring households. In poorer tropical urban environments with dense human populations, unscreened houses, no air-conditioning, and innumerable rain-filled containers to develop in, Aedes aegypti proliferates and so do those diseases, causing ca 400M annual infections of dengue alone by some estimates. The economic impact of the dengue, which normally causes a high fever, muscle and joint pains and nausea, is pronounced; especially in poor households with few savings and no welfare system. Every year, about 500,000 of those dengue cases develop into severe dengue, or dengue haemorrhagic fever (typified by plasma leakage, severe bleeding and organ impairment). There are about 25,000 deaths annually. mosquito-Aedes aegypti-feeding-human.jpgThe Zika pandemic of 2015-2016 resulted in 1000s of babies born with microcephaly and damage to their brains and eyes. For 1000s of other children, the impacts of Zika on their cognitive development did not manifest in their first, formative years.  Chikungunya is endemic in Asia and Africa but between 2010 and 2014, outbreaks and epidemics spread across the Indian Ocean, the Caribbean, the Americas and the Pacific Islands. It causes severe, often debilitating joint pain in infected patients. Those affected also suffer from headaches, fever, severe muscle pain and conjunctivitis. Joint pain can persist in subacute or chronic form for several months or even years, particularly in older patients. The ubiquity of the mosquito Aedes aegypti across the tropics and sub tropics ensures that further epidemics of Zika and chikungunya will occur, outside their usual ranges. It’s simply impossible to predict when that will occur. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research / 30.09.2020

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Professor Sarah Medland Coordinator of the Mental Health Research Program and Group Leader Psychiatric Genetics QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: This large collaborative project involving participants and researchers from around the world which has been underway for about 10 years. The aim was to try and identify genetic variants that influence handedness with the goal of increasing our knowledge about the way lateralization develops in behaviour and in the brain. In this project we were able to bring together results from cohort studies conducted by academic collaborators, the UK Biobank and 23andMe yielding a total sample size of over 1.7 million participants. Working with Professor David Evans the co-senior author of the paper (University of Queensland) and Dr Gabriel Cuellar-Partida the first author of the paper (formally UQ now at 23andMe) and the other researchers who worked on the project we meta-analysed the genome-wide association analysis results from the cohorts and were able to identify 41 genetic variants that influence left-handedness and 7 that influence ambidextrousness. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Melanoma, Nature / 21.05.2020

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Kelly Brooks PhD Research Officer QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute     MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: There are approximately 175 new cases a year for melanomas inside the eye called uveal melanomas. These cancers spread to other sites of the body in about half of patients. Uveal melanomas are very different to skin melanomas and so far no effective treatment have been approved to treat uveal melanoma once it has spread. We sequenced uveal melanoma tumours from over 100 different patients to look at what mutations are responsible for tumour growth and development.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Genetic Research, Melanoma / 29.04.2020

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Matthew H. Law, PhD Senior Research Officer, Statistical Genetics QIMR Berghofer MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: A large genetic study of melanoma involving a global collaboration of scientists, co-led by QIMR Berghofer, the University of Leeds in the UK, and the National Cancer Institute in the US which is part of the National Institutes of Health, has been published in the prestigious journal Nature Genetics. Melanoma is a sometimes-deadly skin cancer, with an estimated 350,000 cases worldwide in 2015, resulting in nearly 60,000 deaths. Melanoma begins in melanocytes, cells in the skin responsible for making the pigment melanin that gives colour to the skin. Melanin is able to block some of the harmful effects of UV radiation, which is why people with pale skin are at a higher risk of skin cancer, but the protection is not complete. Moles also develop from melanocytes, and having a high number of moles is a risk factor for melanoma. UK based co-lead author, Dr Mark Iles from the University of Leeds’s Institute for Data Analytics, said the researchers examined DNA from 37,000 people who had been diagnosed with melanoma and compared their genetic information to that of nearly 400,000 people with no history of the disease.” Joint study leader and QIMR Berghofer statistical geneticist Associate Professor Matthew Law said the researchers identified 33 new regions of the genome and confirmed another 21 previously reported regions that are linked to a person’s risk of developing melanoma of the skin. Two of the new regions we’ve discovered that are linked to melanoma have previously been linked to autoimmune disorders. This provides further evidence that the immune system plays an important role in a person developing melanoma. We also found an association between melanoma and common genetic variants in the gene TP53, which is a gene critical in controlling DNA repair when cells divide, and in suppressing cancer.” Co-lead author on the study and senior investigator at the National Cancer Institute, Dr Maria Teresa Landi, said the research also uncovered other important clues to the genetic causes of melanoma. We used the relationship between moles, pigmentation, and melanoma to identify 31 additional gene regions that potentially influence melanoma risk. For example, one of the regions we identified is involved in melanocyte growth,” Dr Landi said. “Moreover, we also included people from Mediterranean populations involved in the MelaNostrum Consortium. Most studies of melanoma use people with northern or western European ancestry (e.g. British) and by expanding our analysis to include Mediterranean populations, we will gain a greater understanding of the genetics of melanoma in this highly sun exposed group.” (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Coffee / 21.07.2019

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: coffee-smell caffeineMr Jue Sheng Ong,  PhD Student  QIMR Berghofer’s Statistical Genetics Group MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: Previous findings have shown conflicting results on whether coffee is associated with cancer risk. To evaluate whether there’s any evidence for a causal relationship between coffee and cancer outcomes, we performed two types of association analyses using data from the half a million participants in the UK.
  • We first studied whether an individual’s self-reported coffee consumption is related to their overall risk of developing or dying from any cancers.
  • Then, we repeated the analyses using genetically predicted coffee intake (using about 35 genetic markers related with coffee intake) instead of their self-reported consumption: a technique known as mendelian randomization which is commonly used in modern epidemiology to remove bias from environmental confounders.
Using both techniques, we found no evidence to support a relationship between coffee consumption and the risk of developing or dying from cancers. (more…)