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Thanks to the visionary support of a Foundation donor, Mrs Patricia Pitman, a groundbreaking initiative is unfolding in cardiac care at the Royal Hobart Hospital. With over 37,000 Tasmanians grappling with heart disease, Patricia's generosity has ignited hope for those living with multiple types of heart conditions.

There’s a dedicated clinic within the Royal Hobart Hospital, known as the Rapid Access Chest Pain Clinic (RACPC), which helps Tasmanians with heart conditions. Doctors in this clinic can quickly check patients with heart problems, offering swift assessment and diagnosis and helping patients avoid unnecessary emergency room visits.

It was a proven success, however the team in the RACPC wanted to develop a system where they could help people who weren’t able to visit the clinic in person and ensure they receive the same high-quality care. Through a new research trial, they used video calls (telehealth) to engage these patients, manage heart disease risks and improve care for people that often find it difficult to access care.

Through this research project, the team looked at how the clinics were run and talked to the doctors and nurses to see what could be improved. They also looked at how patients faired after using the telehealth service compared to those who visited the clinic in person, focusing on how often they ended up back in the emergency room, if they had serious heart problems later and how happy they were with their care.

The findings from this study were exciting. They showed that the telehealth version of the RACPC works just as well as seeing patients face-to-face, even reducing the need for extra tests to keep people safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that people living in remote and rural areas, can still get expert help for chest pain without travelling, which could be a game-changer not just during a pandemic but also in day-to-day life.

Thanks to Patricia Pitman's generosity, the Royal Hobart Hospital is leading the way in using technology to improve heart health care. The study's chief investigator, Dr Niamh Chapman, and leading local cardiologist, Dr Andrew Black, who are part of this project, are now helping create new national guidelines for treating heart problems. Their work shows how new ideas and technology can make a big difference in health care.

This project isn't just about improving things for people with heart problems today. It's about setting up a system that can help even more people in the future, no matter where they live. This initiative exemplifies how technological advancements can be harnessed to meet healthcare challenges and improve the quality of life for countless individuals.

As we commemorate World Cancer Day on 4 February 2024, we want to highlight how the generous support of our Foundation donors are tackling Tasmania’s high prostate cancer rates.

Thanks to community support, the Foundation is funding a study focused on precision care for men with prostate cancer, a disease that affects over 25000 men in Australia each year. The study, led by Dr Kelsie Raspin, will examine how prostate cancer care can be transformed through a consumer-engaged approach, ensuring that patient insights and preferences spearhead this medical revolution.

The dedicated research team are doing this by recruiting Tasmanian men diagnosed with high-grade prostate cancer, establishing a core outcome set for genomic prostate cancer medicine and creating an invaluable database of rare prostate cancer variants identified in high-grade prostate cancer patients.

Since launching in 2023, the research team have already made substantial headway on the genetic analysis of prostate cancer. Initial participants in the study have had their DNA examined through whole-genomic sequencing, and the researchers are now investigating rare variants considered clinically actionable. This information will be given to the participants, which may provide them with vital information about why they have prostate cancer and may then inform their future treatment decisions.  

Ove the next two years, the team will recruit more participants and undertake further whole-genome sequencing to unveil further insights into prostate cancer genetics. They will also establish a Variant Curation Database, which is set to be a linchpin in future prostate cancer research and treatment.

Precision Care for Men with Prostate Cancer is more than a study — it's a testament to genomic innovation, community engagement, and hope, steering us towards a future where cancer treatment is as personalised as the DNA it seeks to unravel. We thank all our donors for their support and allowing us to help improve the health outcomes of men with prostate cancer.

In a landmark decision Australia has recently announced a ban on engineered stone, effective from July 2024, in response to the growing health crisis of workers developing silicosis. This momentous step highlights the critical role of scientific research in shaping public policy and safeguarding worker health.

Supporters of the Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation proudly contributed to this pivotal change, by providing funding for a ground-breaking study on the dangers of artificial stone benchtops. The study was led by Professor Zosky and revealed alarming facts about the engineered stone industry in Tasmania. Over 20 per cent of workers exposed to dust from cutting artificial stone benchtops showed signs of accelerated silicosis, a severe lung disease. The project aimed to identify the most hazardous materials in engineered stone and the cellular mechanisms contributing to the disease's severity. This approach was crucial in understanding the unique dangers posed by engineered stone dusts, different from typical silica dusts.

Photo credit: Chris Kidd - The Mercury Newspaper

Recently, Professor Zosky has been in the news again with his latest findings, adding another dimension to this complex issue. In collaboration with the University of Adelaide, his new research found that metals like cobalt and aluminium in engineered stone also pose significant health risks. These discoveries have reinvigorated calls for a comprehensive ban on engineered stone, considering not only the silica content but also the presence of other harmful components.

The unanimous decision by Commonwealth, state, and territory workplace ministers to implement a national ban on engineered stone is a testament to the power of dedicated research in driving policy changes. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, Professor Zosky's work significantly influenced public awareness and played a key role in a decision that will save countless lives.

As Australia prepares for this ban, it’s clear that the path to safer workplaces is paved with diligent research and informed policy decisions. The Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation remains dedicated to supporting such vital research, ensuring that the health and safety of workers remains at the forefront of industry practices.

As we celebrate the spirit of giving and togetherness this festive season, we want to ask if you will give the ultimate gift of helping others by making a life-saving gift to support Alzheimer’s disease research.

We’d like to introduce you to Rowan, a 72-year-old proud Tasmanian, who regrettably watched his eldest brother Colin succumb to Alzheimer’s disease some years ago. Colin was the heart of every family gathering and activity. He was the best friend to all his siblings and Rowan’s children adored ‘pop’.

The family’s world came crashing down when they noticed Colin started to forget basic details and subsequently had a significant shift in his personality, becoming increasingly sombre in his ways.

“I remember the day when Colin let us all know that things had changed in his life after a diagnosis of late-stage Alzheimer’s disease and that’s when it all made sense,” said Rowan.

“It was crushing to watch him get worse and became harder for us to provide him with the constant support, particularly after he had fallen into a deep sleep in his final stages of life.”

On Colin’s last day, Rowan recalls that he and his older brother Brendon sat at the end of his hospital bed chatting. Colin hadn’t spoken in weeks, but in that emotional moment Rowan’s wife, a Nurse Practitioner, cheerfully entered the room during her rounds. She addressed Colin and asked about the light-hearted banter shared by Rowan and Brendon during their time at his bedside.

Colin suddenly murmured “Yes, they’re ratbags chatting over me while I lay here in my bed, but I enjoy hearing their voices”.

“They were his last spoken words before he passed away later that evening. It was a very sad, but perfect final day,” describes Rowan.

Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation funded researcher Associate Professor Lyn Goldberg

Associate Professor Lyn Goldberg believes tongue strength could be an early biomarker for the early detection of dementia.

The Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation now needs your help to get ahead of Alzheimer’s disease and help families like Rowan and Colin’s.

We are on the verge of making some incredible breakthroughs to detect Alzheimer’s disease decades before symptoms emerge and help people like Colin receive early intervention - but we need your help to make this possible.

Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation researcher and speech pathologist Dr Lyn Goldberg believes that a person’s tongue strength may be an important, but yet unrecognised contributing factor to early detection!

With your support, Dr Goldberg and a dedicated team of Tasmanian researchers will conduct an innovative study to investigate how a loss of tongue strength may help predict this awful disease. These results will inform the development of an easily accessible and low-cost test to identify a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Goldberg and her team will study people who are concerned about their thinking and memory, but who do not have a diagnosis of dementia, to measure their tongue strength and ability to repeat a series of syllables as fast as they can. Their results will be compared to results from a group of people who have no concerns about thinking and memory. People in both groups will also have highly specialised blood tests which can predict Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Goldberg explains “We believe these results will help us identify a further non-invasive, affordable and easily accessible way to predict potential cognitive decline.”

Rowan and his siblings are already keen to register for Dr Goldberg’s upcoming study. “This seems like the perfect way to help provide essential health data to help others, while also taking early steps to ensure I’m safeguarding my brain health for as long as I can,” Rowan explains.

Please, this Christmas, will you consider giving a gift to the Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation to help Dr Goldberg and her team explore how tongue strength can revolutionise the way we diagnose and ultimately treat Alzheimer’s disease?

Your generous tax-deductible donation will not only help local Tasmanians but will make a profound impact the health and wellbeing of people worldwide.

Thank you for supporting medical research. With your help, we can create a brighter and healthier future for our community this Christmas.

P.S. The number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease set to triple by 2050. Will you make a tax-deductible donation this Christmas to help fund ground-breaking new research to revolutionise how doctors test and treat this terrible disease?

Are you ready for an incredible challenge? The Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation has an exhilarating opportunity for you! The Foundation is thrilled to announce that it is the charity partner for the 2024 Cadbury Marathon and we’re inviting you to join in the fun.

The Cadbury Marathon is held on 7 January 2024 in Hobart and offers a range of running events to suit everyone’s fitness levels, from 1km to full marathons, so anyone can take part.

Here’s how to get started:

Sign up: Click here to register for the 2024 Cadbury Marathon

Fundraise: Create a fundraising page and share it with your networks to support your efforts

Train and prepare: Start your training journey and get ready to make a difference

Impact: Every step you take gets us closer to our goal of improving the health and wellbeing of Tasmanians

So, get ready to lace up those runners and set yourself a new challenge for 2024.

If you would like tips on how to fundraise while you run, please reach out to the Foundation team on research@rhhresearchfoundation.org.

We look forward to seeing you on race day!

The Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation is the charity partner for the 2024 Cadbury Marathon
The Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation is the charity partner for the 2024 Cadbury Marathon

On 15 November 2023 we proudly celebrated the remarkable contributions of its community of supporters and dedicated researchers at our Spring Soiree.  It was an evening of appreciation at AURA Hobart, complete with refreshing drinks, delicious canapés, and breathtaking views!

Throughout the night we celebrated our amazing partners, while also showcasing the achievements of our Foundation-funded researchers. Over the past year, our researchers have been at the forefront of medical advancements - focusing on enhancing treatments for men with prostate cancer, pioneering new tests for dementia, exploring the link between air pollution and specific diseases, and so much more. Their incredible work promises significant improvements in the health and wellbeing of our community.

Guests also heard from Foundation-funded sleep scientist, Sam Bramich, who captivated guests with her insights on REM sleep behaviour disorder and how this condition can be an early indicator of dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

We are so grateful for the generous support of the Spring Soiree event sponsor St Lukes. This inspiring organisation is committed to making Tasmania the healthiest island globally and acknowledges the crucial role of local medical research in achieving this ambitious goal.

It was a pleasure to have so many supporters from various parts of our dynamic community in one room to celebrate the advancements in research in 2023. We look forward to working together to ensure that our research continues to positively impact our local community in 2024 and beyond.

The Foundation’s Research Matters speaker series returned for a seminar on heart health with local Cardiologist, and senior clinical lecturer at the University of Tasmania, Dr Andrew Black. It was great to have Andrew share his expertise with our highly engaged community of Foundation supporters at the brand-new St Lukes Community Hub in Hobart’s CBD.

Over 45 minutes Dr Black discusses the causes of heart disease, what to do if you experience symptoms, how heart conditions are detected, the latest interventions for prevention and treatment, and some of the fascinating research that is taking place right here in Tasmania. It is a fascinating and informative discussion about the deadliest condition in Tasmania.

We’d like to thank St Lukes for supporting the event and hosting us in their brand new Community Hub!

If you enjoyed this Research Matters seminar, be sure to check out our other talks on dementia and prostate cancer.

Research Matters heart health on World Heart Day with Dr Andrew Black
Research Matters heart health on World Heart Day with Dr Andrew Black

Ms Xinyi Wang is a Foundation-funded researcher who works at the University of Tasmania’s Wicking Dementia Research Education Centre. She is actively researching new approaches to detecting dementia.

What made you want to get into medical research?

I completed a Bachelor of Biomedicine degree that introduced me to various clinicians and researchers, broadening my exposure to the field. Subsequently, I pursued a master's degree in information technology, leveraging my expertise in biomedicine and artificial intelligence. This unique blend of disciplines enables me to harness cutting-edge computer technologies in medical research.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a medical researcher in Tasmania?

The Tasmanian population is strongly willing to actively participate in research. This abundance of data from the Tasmanian population enables us to efficiently conduct robust and comprehensive large-scale analyses at the population level.

How has the funding of the Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation helped you achieve your research goals?

Thanks to the Foundation’s grant funding, our research team can delve into the study of late-onset Essential Tremor (LO-ET), a condition characterised by the development of tremors in adults aged 60 and above. This specific type of tremor shows promising potential as an indicator of dementia risk. The funding from Foundation presents us with a valuable opportunity to objectively assess the hand motor function of individuals with LO-ET and compare its characteristics with other types of tremors, such as Parkinson's tremors. Additionally, we aim to investigate the association between LO-ET and the risk of developing dementia.

What research project do you have planned next?

Upon understanding the distinct characteristics of LO-ET, we can develop online hand motor tests that specifically evaluate types of hand movements or functions. By implementing these tests online, we can overcome geographic limitations and ensure accessibility for individuals residing in rural areas. Furthermore, since hand movement tests transcend language and cultural barriers, they can potentially be utilised globally, benefiting individuals worldwide.

Your donations to the Foundation can continue to support ground-breaking research into dementia. Donate today online, or by calling our office on (03) 6166 1319.

The Foundation's Research Matters speaker series returned for a seminar on prostate cancer, with researchers Dr Kelsie Raspin and Dr Liesel Fitzgerald and surgeon Dr Nick Davies coming together to discuss prostate cancer at the University of Tasmania's Menzies Institute for Medical Research.

We invite you to please enjoy this hour-long information session, where our panellists discuss the latest ways to detect prostate cancer, the importance of catching the disease early, the increased risk associated with age and genetics, and some of the most innovative treatment methods. It is a robust and informative discussion about one of Australia's most commonly diagnosed cancers.

Thanks to Josh Duggan for facilitating this discussion and to Hobart Private Hospital for supporting the event.

Research has shown that exercise positively benefits people both during and after cancer treatment. It can help patients with their energy levels, assists with stress and anxiety levels, strengthens muscles and improves mobility. However, we also know that after a cancer diagnosis, patients can find some days harder than others when it comes to exercise.

The Royal Hobart Hospital currently offers an eight-week exercise program for cancer patients, but we do not know if patients continue to exercise after the program ends.

To support the knowledge in this area, the Foundation is funding a research project that will examine what drives patients to stay active during their cancer journey. The new Understanding Physical Activity after Cancer exercise Therapy (UNPACT) study will explore what cancer survivors see as the barriers to ongoing exercise and what helps them stay active.

The new research project will be led by physiotherapist Sajina Mathew (pictured) and supported by a multidisciplinary team of clinicians across the Tasmanian Health Service. Together, this expert group of researchers will look at what patients find to be the barriers and enablers to physical activity. The findings will be used to make modifications to the Hospital’s existing short-term exercise program to ensure patients remain engaged in physical activity well into the future.

The Foundation is proud to be supporting such a significant study that will make a huge difference to the long-term health outcomes of our local community.

We rely on your support to continue funding influential cancer research projects like this one. To donate to cancer research, please email research@rhhresearchfoundation.org or simply click here.

Ms Sam Bramich is a PHD Candidate at the University of Tasmania. Sam and her team of researchers have just received Foundation funding to identify the prevalence of rapid eye movement sleep behaviour disorder (RBD) in Tasmania.

What made you want to get into medical research?

I’ve always loved learning and after completing my master’s degree in Sleep Medicine I wanted to learn more about sleep and disease development, so this led me to start a PhD with the Wicking Centre at UTAS. My dad, who was a shift-worker most of his life, was also recently diagnosed with dementia, so this has fuelled my interest in investigating how poor sleep contributes to the onset of dementia and other diseases.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a medical researcher in Tasmania?

The enthusiasm of the Tasmanian community! I am constantly amazed at how willing Tasmanians are to give their time so freely to research, and I love having opportunities to talk to the community and show them how grateful we are for their participation.

How has the Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation funding helped you achieve your research goals?

Without the Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation funding, I would not have been able to conduct any of the projects needed for my PhD. The Foundation has allowed me to recruit over 2000 participants into my research project and purchase materials needed to explore which factors are associated with poor sleep and its progression to other diseases.

What research project do you have planned next?

With the help of the Foundation, this year my research team and I will be inviting participants in our sleep study to undergo smell testing and sleep pattern monitoring to investigate differences between people with and without isolated REM sleep behaviour disorder (iRBD). We will also be testing out the use of a home- based sleep study system to diagnose iRBD, which will allow easier (and more comfortable) access to sleep studies for people suspected of having iRBD.

Donations to the Foundation can continue to support researchers like Sam and allow them to undertake ground-breaking work. Please donate today online or call 03 6166 1319.

Thanks to the generosity of our local community, the Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation is proudly continuing its 26-year tradition of funding innovative research projects to improve the lives of our local community. Recently the Foundation announced that it will be granting more than $1.6 million over the next three years to continue this tradition of giving to fund life-saving medical research projects in Tasmania.

The grant funding will be distributed among Tasmanian researchers who are investigating a range of health issues including cancer, heart disease, dementia, and chronic diseases. Grants have been allocated to support innovative pilot studies, emerging research projects and multi-year investigations across these areas.

The Foundation’s CEO, Steph Furler, explains that these research projects will make a huge difference to the lives of people in Tasmania.

“It’s exciting to know that our researchers will be investigating a variety of health conditions, that will lead to better treatments and care for patients in Tasmania,” she said.

“We are so grateful to our local community who continue to support medical research projects, knowing that it will help improve the lives of people around them.”

Researchers in the 2023 Foundation-funded projects will examine a range of health conditions. Project include studying sleep and wake patterns to identify rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behaviour disorder, analysing tremors to develop a new pre-cognitive test for dementia, and looking at how precision medicine can be used to better care for men with prostate cancer in Tasmania. A team will also investigate critical decision making for patients with end-stage kidney disease, thanks to the Foundation’s inaugural Lowenthal-Muller grant.

Thank you again to everyone who continues to support the Foundation and ensure that medical research projects continue to thrive in Tasmania.

(Pictured: Dr. Kelsie Raspin is our 2023 Major Project Grant recipient)

To find out more about the projects that the Foundation has supported in 2023, please visit our research grants page.

Millions of Australians have insulin resistance, a silent condition that often has no symptoms. But left untreated it can lead to much more serious diseases like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and dementia. We now need your support to raise $25,000 to find out what causes this concerning condition.

This essential funding will support Dr Dino Premilovac and a team of expert researchers to investigate the relationship between air pollution and insulin resistance. In this world-first study, Dr Premilovac will look at the impacts of air pollution from vehicles and bushfire smoke and if it triggers insulin resistance.

Dr Premilovac explains that “studies from around the world show that living close to a major road or in highly polluted cities is associated with increased risk of developing obesity and insulin resistance, but we do not understand how or why this occurs.”

“Our work is the first of its kind and will investigate how air pollution alters the function of the hormone insulin in the body to cause insulin resistance,” he notes.

This study is particularly relevant to Tasmanians, who are often exposed to extremely high levels of air pollution from bushfire smoke and wood heaters. Tasmanians were exposed to extremely hazardous air particles during the 2020 bushfires when a thick cloud of smoke blanketed the state for weeks on end. We're further exposed to this air pollution during winter, as we sit by roaring wood fires to stay warm.

The Foundation’s CEO, Stephanie Furler, called for the Foundation community to give generously and support this essential project. “I encourage you to give generously and help us raise $25,000 to fund this life-saving campaign.”

“Not only will this research help change lives, but it will be instrumental in shaping public policy and support future research into other diseases that are affected by insulin resistance.”

Your donations will help support this life-saving research. Donate online today or call (03) 6166 1319.

Dr Dino Premilovac and his research team
Dr Dino Premilovac and his research team

Dr Niamh Chapman is an emerging force in Tasmanian medical research, with a special interest in heart disease. She shares how she got into the field and how the Foundation’s grant funding has furthered her research.

What made you want to get into medical research?

I have always been passionate about equity in society and eventually, I found my way to public health. Early mentors were instrumental in encouraging me to pursue a career in medical research.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a medical researcher in Tasmania?

Tasmania has some of the worst health statistics in Australia, so there is an urgent need to tackle these health and social issues. Researchers can work with local healthcare providers, the community, and other researchers to identify solutions. The Foundation plays such a key role in this process, and it is so exciting to benefit directly from that.

How has the Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation funding helped you achieve your research goals?

I aim to undertake research that has real improvements for our local community. The Foundation funding enabled me to do just that, as I worked closely with a local cardiologist, Dr Andrew Black, to identify ways to improve the delivery of a clinic to manage chest pain.

What unexpected things have you learned along the way as a medical researcher?

I am amazed at how generous and supportive the research community is! I am also surprised how much I get to link with community members, healthcare providers, and policymakers as part of my work.

What research project do you have planned next?

So many! One project I’m looking to start work on will allow me to compare the way chest pain is managed across the country, to identify what is working well and what could be improved.

Donations to the Foundation can continue to support researchers like Dr Chapman and allow them to undertake ground-breaking work. Please donate online today or call (03) 6166 1319.

This year the Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation is proud to be celebrating our 25th anniversary! Over that time, thanks to generous community support, we have invested $10 million across hundreds of local medical research projects. We've highlighted a few of these projects below, showing your support has helped improve countless lives both here in Tasmania and around the world.

Saving lives from the deadly jack jumper ant

In 1999 The Foundation started supporting Dr Simon Brown and his team, who were exploring treatments into potentially lethal jack jumper ant stings. As a result of this ground-breaking research, a jack jumper desensitisation clinic was established at the Royal Hobart Hospital and deaths from jack jumper ant stings have been prevented in Tasmania ever since.

Dr Simon Brown in the lab

Tasmanian families have opened our eyes to glaucoma

Glaucoma is an eye condition that, if left untreated, can cause blindness. Over 25 years ago, the Foundation supported the Glaucoma Inheritance Study in Tasmania under the guidance of Professor David Mackey AO to capture DNA samples to help find the genes that cause the disease. It has now become one of the longest-running investigations that helps predict who is at risk of developing the disease and preventing blindness.

Professor David Mackey

Supporting breathing patterns of premature babies

A Foundation-funded study led by Professor Peter Dargaville has gone on to change the lives of premature babies around the world. In 2012, the team developed a less invasive approach to deliver life-saving medication to help these infants breathe and limit complications. After further global studies, the Hobart Method was proven to be a game-changing therapy and quickly gained traction in neonatal intensive care units around the world.

Professor Peter Dargaville

Developing the TAS Test, a non-invasive screening test for Alzheimer’s disease

More recently, the Foundation has been funding research into the development of a non-invasive screening test to detect the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Led by Associate Professor Jane Alty, this tool will enable people with early-stage Alzheimer’s to commence intensive risk modification and enter drug trials before their brain is irreparably damaged.

Associate Professor Jane Alty

Thank you to all of you who have been on our journey with us over this time - we couldn't do it without you. But there is still so much more research to be done! Please donate today, so we can continue to fund incredible medical research right here in Tasmania and improve outcomes for people around the world. Call our office on (03) 6166 1319 or donate online.

Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer to affect Tasmanian men. For some, genetic factors mean they have a higher risk of developing an aggressive form of the disease. But thanks to recent breakthroughs in genetic testing, there are now new ways of diagnosing patients and allowing for more targeted treatments.

With all this new knowledge, it is vital that prostate cancer patients are engaged around the use of genetic information and the outcomes that matter the most to men are addressed. And that’s exactly what Professor Jo Dickinson and a team of expert researchers have set out to achieve in their new study “Precision Medicine for Men with Prostate Cancer in Tasmania,” which was funded by a Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation grant.

This is the first study in regional Australia to look at how men with prostate cancer feel about the use of genetic information in diagnosis and treatment of the disease, and determine which outcomes are most important to them. The team will be able to use this information to deliver better patient care and research in Tasmania.

Professor Dickinson is passionate about her work and believes it’s an inspiring time to be working in genetic research.

“We’re now seeing game-changing improvements in treatment options that can be delivered through genetic discoveries, not just in prostate cancer but in many diseases,” she explains.

This Foundation-funded study is expected to be completed by 2023, with patient feedback being incorporated to deliver better and more targeted care. We need your support to continue to fund innovative, patient-focused research like this. Make a donation online or call our office on (03) 6166 1319 to make your donation today.

Tasmania has the highest incidence of Cystic Fibrosis (CF) of any state in Australia, with approximately 110 people with CF.  One of the most dramatic impacts of CF is a dysfunctional immune response – this includes a hyper-inflammatory response that often proves ineffective when faced with ongoing respiratory infections. The associated impact on health and wellbeing for those living with CF can be significant.

Local research undertaken by Dr Louise Roddam and her team, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Sydney and funded by the Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation, has recently explored the widespread nature of immune dysfunction in people with CF. Most particularly, the team has defined the nature of dysfunction at the greatest level of detail compared to any studies undertaken to date. As a result of this analysis, they have observed a difference in important regulatory immune cells amongst people with CF when compared to the wider population. Notably, this confirms a negative impact on lung function and also reflects lung tissue damage.
 
This finding is important because this investigation can now be used to continually monitor lung function and disease progression in people with CF. In advancing the techniques used by Dr Roddam and her team, future analyses can now also be undertaken using only very small volumes of peripheral blood (about half a teaspoon), far less than through previous approaches.
 
Coupled with these steps forward, this new insight into immune dysfunction amongst those living with CF could also enable a shift in care towards a greater focus on treating immune defects while also better targeting infection.  Importantly, this will ultimately decrease the overall impact of CF in Tasmania!  The new approach offers a means of evaluating the effectiveness of medication used to respond to CF and immune dysfunction, further aiding the management of this condition.
 
As part of the team’s investigations, they also identified a widespread degree of immune dysfunction in the parents of CF children enrolled in the study, noting that these parents were not living with CF themselves. While we already know that 1 in 25 Australians are CF carriers, this research suggests that these folk also have subtle changes in their immune cells which may potentially influence susceptibility to the development of a number of disorders. While the clinical consequences, if any, are yet to be fully investigated, this research provided a basis for future exploration.
 
To progress this research, Dr Roddam’s team has developed an ‘antibody panel’ to assess immune cell dysfunction further. But until recently, the wider studies undertaken in Australia have focused on using specialised antibodies that have only been available at the University of Sydney and which rely on the use of analytical equipment that is not currently available in Tasmania.
 
To overcome this challenge, a new project, jointly funded by the Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation and Cystic Fibrosis Tasmania, aims to modify and optimise the antibody panel so that local researchers can begin steps to further profile immune cells.  This investigation will not only use more widely available antibodies, but also a locally developed instrument at the University of Tasmania.
 
We’re delighted to know that this project will deliver multiple benefits!  It will build local research capacity and strengthen research ties between the RHH, UTas and CF Tasmania, while also opening up new opportunities for Tasmanian people with CF to participate and benefit from local research. It is also anticipated that local expertise in this analysis will increase the likely success of future collaborative research applications with other institutions across Australia, advancing CF research and its impact even further.

Paula Wreidt, Executive Officer of Cystic Fibrosis Tasmania says that she is “Thrilled with the developments that have been able to progress through the partnership with the Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation that would have otherwise not have eventuated, and looks forward to the next phases of this crucial study for Tasmanians living with CF.”

You can help us continue to fund world-class health and medical research right here in Tasmania by making a donation today.

Dr Mohammed Salahudeen is a lecturer and postgraduate coordinator within the School of Pharmacy and Pharmacology at the University of Tasmania. In addition, he also leads a Foundation-funded study into a new program of intervention that aims to decrease the impact of several drugs that are often used in combination when treating older adults in hospitals. It’s a vital study, especially for Tasmania’s ageing population.

Dr Mohammed Salahudeen says his journey to becoming a doctor in Australia was a long one and one that covers many countries. Originally hailing from Kerala in India, he has also lived and studied in the United Arab Emirates and New Zealand, before finally calling Australia home. Dr Salahudeen is a clinical pharmacist with extensive expertise in the areas of medication safety and quality use of medicine in older adults. He completed his PhD in 2015 from the University of Otago, New Zealand, and holds a range of other degrees from international universities, including his MBA. After achieving his PhD, Dr Salahudeen was then awarded a prestigious fellowship from the University of Otago to commence his postdoctoral research investigating the risks of multiple medication use in older New Zealanders.

Dr Salahudeen enjoys an outstanding reputation for his contributions to multidisciplinary research teams, particularly those working on new models of care aimed to improve the quality use of medicines. Recent highlights include leading an interventional project, funded by the Foundation’s Incubator Grant program, which is believed to be the first hospital-based study to investigate the cumulative (and potentially detrimental) effect of a variety of medications that contain anticholinergic properties (including opioids, antidepressants and benzodiazepines). Exploring the side effects of these medications in combination is aimed to improve a range of outcomes including length of hospital stay, falls and readmission. In another funded project from the RHHRF, his team investigates the nature, risk factors, prevention and management of other adverse drug-related hospital admissions in older adults with dementia. We know Dr Salahudeen’s work is making a real impact, locally and nationally.

Throughout his career, he has worked on several research projects and has co-authored several peer-reviewed publications within the scope of clinical pharmacy. But fundamentally, Dr Salahudeen has a strong interest in real-world studies in older adults, with his other areas of research focusing on dementia, aged care, evidence-based medicine, and mental health. Dr Salahudeen is also an active member of various associations, including the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) and the Australasian Pharmaceutical Science Association (APSA). Within his role, he endeavours to conduct research and inspire his research students to explore new boundaries. His research aims to positively impact the health of the ageing population through reduced medicine-related harm that ultimately improves the person’s quality of life.

Outside of his professional pursuits, Dr Salahudeen is a passionate Movember fundraiser. Each year, he grows a moustache to raise awareness for men’s health issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and suicide prevention. He has been doing this regularly for many years and has raised a considerable amount of money for the Movember Foundation.

You can help us to continue supporting local medical researchers by making a donation today.

Dr Mohammed Salahudeen with Shirley McKerrow from the Bridgewater School for Seniors
Dr Mohammed Salahudeen with Shirley McKerrow from the Bridgewater School for Seniors and the talk on 'Medication safety and aging'

Tassie’s own Prof Peter Dargaville has been bestowed with a prestigious honour today as the outcomes from his clinical trial gained coverage in the internationally acclaimed Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

After its genesis at the Royal Hobart Hospital just over ten years ago, the global study has proven that The Hobart Method is a better approach to supporting the breathing patterns of premature babies.  It has already been clinically proven as a life-saver and a game-changer.

After receiving initial funding from the Foundation in 2012 and further local investment during its formative stages, evidence gathered through these early phases of the investigation attracted attention from the National Health and Medical Research Council.  This enabled Prof Dargaville and his team to gain a significant injection of funds - the trigger required to roll this out as a clinical trial across the globe.

Over recent years, the study has engaged the families of 485 premmie babies in the first hours of life across thirty-three neonatal intensive care units in eleven countries. Although only a small proportion of babies are born at less than 30 weeks’ gestation, these tiny ones are at high risk of breathing difficulty given their lungs haven’t yet developed. The Hobart Method uses a far less invasive approach to delivering a substance called surfactant through a tiny narrow tube gently placed into the infant’s windpipe, helping to disperse this deeply into the lungs and aiding the vital process of breathing.

The study, led by local neonatologist Prof Dargaville and his team, aimed to improve upon the current standard of care, seeking to limit the development of chronic lung disease that can have lasting effects on the lives of preterm babies.

The study engaged skilled team members from the areas of engineering and computer science, together with clinicians and pharmacists, combining their expertise to deliver a unique and cutting edge technologically driven approach that makes such a powerful impact on families worldwide.

Prof Dargaville said that it was a great privilege and very exciting to see that what began as an idea in clinical practice at the RHH has now become an accepted therapy of proven benefit for babies worldwide.

“The findings of the study have absolutely cemented the idea that using a minimally invasive technique to give surfactant can give these babies an important advantage in those critical early stages of life.”

Can this healthier start to life can have a lasting impact?  The answer is now being examined in an innovative follow up study in which parents of infants involved in the trial will now go on to detail their child’s health and wellbeing in the first two years after birth.

“Our results suggest that the use of The Hobart Method from day one will translate into a healthier start to life for premature infants around the world,” Prof. Dargaville concluded.

The results of this trial are currently being presented at neonatal conferences world-wide, and The Hobart Method has already rapidly gained traction in many neonatal intensive care units around the world.

We are incredibly proud of the contribution that the Foundation has made to this Tasmanian-based study and look forward to working closely with Prof Dargaville as his study progresses.

Local medical research saves lives, and thanks to the support of our local Tasmanian community we have been able to see an outstanding and life-saving idea exported and adopted globally for the benefit of generations to come.

You can support game changing research like the Hobart Method by making an online donation today. Thanks for supporting local medical research!

Are you, or someone you know affected by a rare disease? Tasmanian families who have had personal experience of conditions such as these often feel isolated and alone.  We know this local research project is vitally important to supporting the health and wellbeing of so many across our community, young and old, now and into the future.

Generously funded by a Tasmanian family, this study sees a skilled local team working closely with the newly established Tasmanian Rare and Undiagnosed Diseases Network (TRUDN). A key aim of the investigation is to build an initial profile of the number and impact of these conditions in our local community. Led by local researcher Dr Mathew Wallis, who is also Clinical Director of the Tasmanian Clinical Genetics Service, an important preliminary focus for the team will lie in simply uncovering the prevalence and diversity of rare disease in Tasmania. With better understanding, we can better support these families.

What is TRUDN?

TRUDN is a group of health professionals, researchers and consumers that aim to improve awareness, diagnosis and treatment of Rare Diseases in Tasmania. The TRUDN vision is to lead the delivery of equitable healthcare to Tasmanians living with Rare Diseases, along with driving new innovation and contributing to local, national and international projects in Rare Diseases.

Relevance to Tasmanians

This study is so important because the collective impact of rare diseases in Tasmania is, at this point, unknown!  Rare diseases are generally complex, serious and progressive conditions that begin to show early signs in childhood. These conditions often impact on several of the body’s core systems, in many instances there are multiple and ongoing health and psychosocial issues. Naturally these require continuing support through coordination of complex care.

One of the greatest challenges in understanding the impact of rare diseases is the limited data available - this is where the team’s study comes in! Rare disease data needs to be measured and tracked effectively to understand current Tasmanian needs while also better preparing for the future. In Tasmania, as in many other Australian states, there is a significant lack of evidence and public health data around the impact upon the patients’ families and the wider community.

What we need to know!

An undiagnosed disease often presents a complex challenge. Most undiagnosed diseases are rare, but there is a spectrum of rare disease types. Around 80% of these are genetic. While rare diseases are defined as a condition affecting less than one person per 2,000, because there are over 7,000 rare diseases, they collectively affect approximately 6-8% of the Australian population – that’s a significant number. We currently have no idea which of the 7,000 known rare diseases are prevalent in Tasmania and so Dr Wallis and his team are on a quest to find out!

What’s next?

This important project is part of a broader plan to identify, and later address, the needs that arise from rare diseases in Tasmania. These could include access to care, accurate and timely diagnosis (including screening for early detection), access to therapies, clear care pathways and provision of support beyond the health domain. As this study will also contribute to uncovering otherwise missed opportunities for earlier intervention, identifying and addressing these needs in Tasmania is critically important. For many families, this is a long-awaited study that will form the foundation to so much more vital medical research.

The Royal Hobart hospital Research Foundation’s purpose is to pursue better health for Tasmanians through research, but we can’t do this without your help.

You can make a donation online today or call our friendly team to make a donation via the phone on (03) 6166 1319. Thank you for supporting local medical research.

The Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation is proud to have first supported the Glaucoma Inheritance Study in Tasmania in 1999 and notes that this has become one of the longest-running investigations that works to ensure Australians know that glaucoma runs in families.  This is vital as, sadly, glaucoma can often be left undetected – in fact around half of those in our community with glaucoma area unaware of this until their condition becomes advanced. 

This is distressing.  Untreated, glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness worldwide and there are many in our local community who have a genetic predisposition toward developing this condition.

Over two decades, this Tasmanian-based study has developed the world’s largest family biobank of glaucoma, featuring over 2,000 patients and a further 3,000 of their relatives.  Building awareness has enabled better education and support to be provided to families, but the need for great research doesn’t stop there.

In 2021 Professors Alex Hewitt and David Mackey received funding to continue their investigations around whether a genetic risk score for glaucoma could be used to better identify people at risk of glaucoma blindness.  If successful, results from this study will deliver valuable evidence to support glaucoma screening and monitoring in Australia, providing scope for the risk of blindness to be detected early – the aim is that patients will require less treatment and, most importantly, fewer people will go blind.

Both lead investigators are alumni of the University of Tasmania, with Prof Hewitt graduating in 2001.  He obtained his PhD from Flinders University in 2009, exploring glaucoma with the motivation to better understand this condition, often labelled the "sneak thief of sight".

Since 2014 Alex and his team have been using world-class technology to better understand and treat inherited eye diseases. In 2016 and 2018 Alex received NHMRC Research Excellence Awards for the top-ranked applicant for a Practitioner Fellowship and Program Grant – that’s an outstanding achievement in such a highly-competitive arena. His research team, in conjunction with researchers across Australia and overseas, has also been actively involved with the identification of genes and risks associated with glaucoma, macular degeneration and myopia.

Prof Hewitt said the specific aim of this current Foundation-funded study is to determine the prevalence of glaucoma (including the risk of developing this) amongst people using a technique called ‘polygenic risk profiling’.  As part of a toolkit used in genetic risk prediction, this develops a score that will help guide more targeted approach to timely diagnosis and earlier intervention.

“We have recently developed a genetic risk score for use in detecting primary open angle glaucoma, so now we’re working to understand the effectiveness of this - applying this in a local, population-based setting across Tasmania“ he said.

Many of us know someone who has been impacted by eye disease, they may even have been directly affected themselves.  This is a vital study, and we know you’ll want to be kept up to date as Alex and his team progress with this over the months and years to come.

You can donate online today to help support researchers like Alex, and other local researchers in their quest to uncover more insights into diseases and conditions that directly affect the Tasmanian community.

Dr Dean Picone will be a familiar name to many of you. That's because the Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation has funded several of Dean's studies over the years and we have been privileged to profile his research previously on several occasions, including at various events.

We’re excited about the research he and his team are doing to develop more effective methods of monitoring blood pressure. Why? Because this research is vitally important to all Tasmanians, now and into the future.

Dr Dean Picone is a local Tasmanian researcher within the Menzies Institute’s Blood Pressure Research Group. He has an interest in ensuring blood pressure is measured accurately and has a good reason for this specific research.

While the statistics are startling, fortunately, if high blood pressure is correctly diagnosed and treated, the risk of heart disease and stroke is markedly reduced.

However, to ensure a timely and correct diagnosis can first be made, blood pressure must be measured accurately. This is easier said than done, and that’s where this research comes in.

For more than 10 years, the Blood Pressure Research Group of the Menzies Institute for Medical Research, led by Professor James Sharman, has been working in close collaboration with the Royal Hobart Hospital Cardiology Department.

“We are extremely grateful to the RHH Cardiology Department. The partnership is unique and attracts the envy of other blood pressure researchers from around the world,” said Dr Picone.

“Considerable investments in funding achieved through several bodies, including the Foundation, have generously supported this research program through a range of grants over many years.”

Over this time, the team has generated significant new knowledge related to the accuracy of blood pressure measurement. They have identified that standard blood pressure measurement using an inflatable cuff is actually more inaccurate in people at higher risk of cardiovascular disease – the very people who need an accurate diagnosis.

The team has now identified specific factors that are related to the inaccuracy of blood pressure measurement. This means they are now in a position to begin solving such a longstanding problem. This is great news!

“One of the most critical factors is the shape of the blood pressure ‘waves’ that are transmitted through the body every time the heart beats. The team will analyse this previously unutilised information to begin improving the way blood pressure is measured,” said Dr Picone.

“The aim of the current project is to apply machine learning techniques to the vast quantities of information derived from blood pressure waves and create a more accurate, individualised method of blood pressure measurement,” he said.

To achieve their important research objectives, the team recently collaborated with the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute’s Computational Biology and Clinical Informatics laboratory. It was this multi-disciplinary partnership that helped lead to the development of an application for the 2021–2023 Foundation's Major Project Grant.

Facing an intense degree of competitive pressure for this $450k grant, the team are excited about what their success in achieving this means to driving their research program further.

The ultimate aim of the research Dr Picone and his team are undertaking is to improve the accuracy of blood pressure measurement, thereby helping reduce preventable cardiovascular diseases in Tasmania, and eventually globally – an aspiration which has the potential to impact millions of lives.

“I would like to thank the Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation and its generous supporters for funding this project and all the other important medical research happening in Tasmania,” Dr Picone said.

You can help fund incredible research like Dr Picone's by simply by making an online donation today. Thank you for supporting the health and wellbeing of the Tasmanian community.

Dean Picone with the blood pressure cuff.

Chances are everyone knows someone working in the building industry - maybe you work, or have worked, in the industry yourself? Given the number of people this sector employs, construction has become the third largest industry in Australia and 2021 has seen Tasmania’s building and construction industry continue to boom even further.

A vital Tasmanian study, funded by the RHH Research Foundation in 2021, particularly hits home when knowing it could be you, your family or your friends that could be impacted by a shocking disease that can occur from just “going to work”.

Well-known local researcher, Prof Graeme Zosky, is leading this important Project Grant study, together with RHH respiratory medicine specialist Dr Nick Harkness. Prof Zosky is Deputy Director at the University of Tasmania’s Menzies Institute for Medical Research and also a Professor of Physiology at the School of Medicine. As a respiratory physiologist, his research looks at ways to better understand how our lungs function.

This is an essential and urgently-needed study that takes insight from Prof Zosky’s deep expertise in this area. We’ve discovered it is as compelling to our supporters as it is to the research team and those in the community that it stands to benefit. It has been generously supported by Blundstone Australia who knows that this local research will not only make a difference to so many Tasmanians, its impact will be felt by many in this industry, right across our country.

Relevance to Tasmanians

We know that exposure to dust from cutting artificial stone for benchtops used in kitchens throughout Tasmania is causing accelerated silicosis in more than 20% of workers. The aim of this project is to find new ways to prevent and treat this incurable, and often fatal, disease that is impacting Tasmanians at an accelerated pace. While we currently lack data specific to Tasmania, national studies suggest that 20-30% of workers involved in dry-cutting engineered stone have signs of silicosis.

What do we know?

Inhalation of dust from artificial stone benchtops, now almost universal in new kitchens, can cause silicosis – an incurable, debilitating lung disease that many of us would already have heard of in relation to working with asbestos. But unfortunately, this version of silicosis is more severe and progresses more rapidly compared to traditional forms of dust-induced lung disease which generally develop more slowly over a period of 20-30 years. Most workers with advanced silicosis created through exposure to artificial stone benchtop dust are typically young and have only been exposed to dust for 5-10 years.

What’s next?

The aim of this project is to identify the components of artificial stone that produce the most hazardous dust so that advances

can be made in regulating the industry and reducing the risk to workers. Importantly, this local team also aims to identify what happens in the lung when this dust is inhaled with the goal of identifying potential future treatments. Prof Zosky said he and his team are driven every day by the opportunity to conduct high quality research that is important to Tasmanians. We are proud to support their pursuits, we hope you will be too.

The Foundation’s purpose is to pursue better health for Tasmanians through research, but we can’t do this without your help.

Please consider if you can make a donation that will support not only Prof Graeme Zosky and his team, but so many other passionate researchers on their quest for better community health outcomes – it means so much to all of us.

Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation funded researcher Professor Graeme Zosky

We love introducing our supporters to the local researchers behind all the exciting and important projects.

After presenting at our annual Celebration of Research Excellence event in August, it was fantastic to hear more about Jessica’s research journey and her mission for better health for all Tasmanians.

Jess has been fortunate to have already experienced an interesting and varied career that includes time spent in a regulatory agency and also inspiring the next generation of researchers through academia. After spending several years as a research project manager, including coordinating a major community-based research trial in Sydney, Jess decided it was time to pursue her own PhD, a significant undertaking indeed! She completed this in 2017 and then took the opportunity to take up a fellowship in the oncology office of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States, before making her way to Tasmania.

“That was a great experience and gave me the opportunity to work with data from various oncology trials and gain an understanding of the drug development and approval process. My time at FDA helped inspire the research project I am now pursuing thanks to the generous support of the Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation,” she said.

Although clinical trials are an essential component of medical research and drug development, most patients with cancer often do not enrol to take part in trials. As a consequence, the challenges of translating findings from trial data into the real world are well-known.

With a multidisciplinary team from the Royal Hobart Hospital, the Menzies Institute for Medical Research and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation, Jessica and her colleagues are investigating the real-world outcomes and side effects of new immunotherapy agents for Tasmanians with lung cancer. This new 2021 Incubator Grant is generously funded by a local Tasmanian benefactor and will provide important local evidence about these drugs which can then be used to build a resource which can better inform future studies in this area, based on real life outcomes.

With many Tasmanians knowing someone who has been impacted by cancer, or being affected directly themselves, this is a vital study, and we know you’ll want to be kept up to date as Jessica and her team progress.

You can help support researchers like Jessica to keep improving the lives of Tasmanians by making an online donation today. Thank you for continuing to improve the lives of the Tasmanian community.

Meet Richard Turner, an experienced Professor of Surgery with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education sector, who for many years now has added his expertise to inform clinical settings in Tasmania and beyond.

Skilled across the diverse areas of epidemiology, emergency medicine and oncology, Richard is heavily involved in lecturing at the University of Tasmania, while also team building across a range of sectors. Through its highly competitive annual grant rounds, the Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation has been proud to fund research projects led by Prof Turner in 2010, 2016 and now in 2021.

Professor Turner said he is delighted to work with an excellent group of local Tasmanian collaborators on his most recent research project.

After starting his career in the 1990s as an academic General Surgeon in Cairns, Richard was given advice that would help shape his career.

 “Around the time I started my career I attended a lecture by a UK surgeon who had gained worldwide recognition as an expert in benign conditions that cause mastalgia or painful breasts. His advice to young hopefuls seeking renown in their field was to find a disease process that no-one else was interested in, but was still an area of unmet need for the patients suffering from it. Luckily, my clinical practice in Far North Queensland provided ample inspiration, and before long I had found not one but two unloved diseases on which to build a career.”

“What the visiting UK expert did not quite say was that ‘unloved’ diseases do not attract the same degree of research funding as those conditions considered to be ‘high priority.”

He said he feels extremely fortunate to have received Foundation funding for his important research. Funding in 2015 for the Tasmanian Gynecological Anal Neoplasia Study (TasGANS) culminated in a top-tier publication that raised awareness of anal dysplasia in women with a history of HPV-related gynecological lesions. This was ground-breaking work in a critical area.

Professor Turner and his team have recently received funding for a data linkage study that will quantify the epidemiological and economic burden of pancreatitis in Tasmania. Statewide hospital and pathology data will be linked to provide a dataset which profiles Tasmanian pancreatitis cases from 2007-2018 to underpin further research.

 “We anticipate that this project will provide impetus for similar work on a national scale that will ultimately identify underserviced population groups and lead to tailored strategies for quality improvement - this will be vital for Tasmanians now and into the future,” he said.

You can support researchers like Richard by making a donation online, or calling one of our friendly team members on (03) 6166 1319.

So, let’s start with why that much-needed sleep may become so hard to find. Well, it might all be ‘in the bones'!

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common, painful and disabling condition. That’s confronting news as almost 50% of Australians develop OA - in fact, the prevalence of OA in Tasmania is even higher.  And as those who experience chronic conditions like OA know only too well, sleep disturbance as a result of pain can make an increasingly negative impact on quality of life.

Local researcher Dr Feng Pan is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Tasmania where much of his work is focused on identifying key risk factors for chronic pain and osteoarthritis (OA), identifying the observable characteristics of pain and OA and also testing new therapeutic treatments. Generously funded by a local donor, this vital research will make a difference to so many Tasmanians.

Relevance to Tasmanians

Despite such a high prevalence of OA in our community, there are currently no effective disease modifying drugs. Not only that, but existing therapeutic drugs have also limited success and carry a substantial risk of undesirable side effects. While joint replacement can be highly effective for pain relief, a substantial proportion of patients are unsatisfied or continue to experience persistent pain even after total hip or knee replacement.

Many Tasmanians experience a lengthy wait time for joint replacement surgery, and this also results in a decline in patients’ quality of life and physical function, not to mention an increase in joint-related pain. The information uncovered from this local study will undoubtably have a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of many Tasmanians.

What do we know?

OA pain in particular is a complex phenomenon, with pain presentations varying among patients. Unsurprisingly there have been disappointing results from current “one-size fits all” treatment approaches in OA pain patients. This new study is built on recent local findings which confirm that patients benefit from more personalised therapeutic approaches. Although we know sleep problems are very common amongst those with OA pain, the true nature of sleep/OA pain relationships, as well as underlying inflammatory responses, are not yet clearly understood.

What’s next?

The aim of this study is to uncover the directionality of the sleep-pain trajectory and its underlying inflammation mechanism.  As you would anticipate, this investigation has important clinical implications for developing more personalised management strategies for OA pain patients with sleep problems. This local study has great potential to significantly improve OA patients’ quality of life while also delivering substantial relief in saved healthcare costs for families and Tasmanian communities as a result.  We all know how much better a decent night’s sleep can make us feel!!

The Foundation’s purpose is to pursue better health for Tasmanians through research, but we can’t do this without your help.

This June please consider providing a gift that will support not only Dr Pan and his team members - Professor Graeme Jones and Dr Hilton Francis, but so many other passionate researchers on their quest for better community health outcomes – it means so much to all of us.

You can help members of our Tasmanian community by choosing to make an online gift to the Foundation today. Every donation over $2 is tax deductible.

You may have spotted local researcher Dr Dino Premilovac in some of our communications over the last few years, often sporting a white coat talking all things “brain research”, but at times more casually attired, introducing us to his young family with whom he loves to spend time bushwalking and camping around Tasmania.

However, spare time is rare in the life of a researcher and there has been plenty of vital work going on behind the scenes in local labs that will have significant impact for years to come. In fact, two of Dino’s recent Foundation funded research grants have now concluded and the outcomes will see positive change for the Tasmanian community and those further afield.

As a researcher Dr Premilovac tells us that being able to complete a project that will have vital impact is hard to describe.

“It’s hard to convey the exact feeling you get when completing a funded project, but it involves a mix of satisfaction, pride, excitement and relief! It’s fantastic to see the ideas that we work on for a long time produce really promising data, such as in the much-needed area of brain research.”

Dino’s message is simple. He emphasises why community support and funding are so important. Without support from the Foundation and sponsors like Blundstone, who generously funded one of Dino’s recent studies, these exciting research opportunities simply could not have gone ahead.

“I don’t know if it's common knowledge, but medical research is very expensive and science in general in Australia is severely underfunded. Having a local funding body like the Foundation, one that provides opportunities for research grants with impact in Tasmania, is really important.

“This means that medical research can take place in Tasmania and produce benefits not only for Tasmanians, but for the rest of Australia as well. Being able run research projects means we can train honours and PhD students in our teams. This means that local research funding enables us to recruit and train a new generation of medical researchers right here in Tasmania,” he said.

Dino explains that he feels driven every day to find out more as a researcher and confesses that he feels lucky that he gets to learn more about how our bodies work while also having the opportunity to research ways to treat the many diseases and conditions that are all too common in our community.

“I really enjoy learning more about how our bodies work. In particular, I am driven to understand how the smallest blood vessels in our bodies, the capillaries, work to supply each of the cells in our body with glucose and oxygen. This is an exciting area to be involved with because problems with capillary blood flow underpin almost all diseases that affect us, including stroke, heart disease, cancer and even obesity and type 2 diabetes. If we can better understand how capillaries work, we might be able to develop new drugs to treat these diseases,” he said.

Dino said despite the wealth of information gained in the last 10-20 years scientists are still at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding how the brain works and how to fix brain disorders. The two Incubator Grants (2019 and 2020) that Dr Premilovac and his team have finalised are related to stroke and getting drugs to the brain when diseases are present.

“Stroke is one of the biggest killers of people in Tasmania and around the world. The only treatment we have for people that have a stroke is to remove the blood clot to restore blood flow to the brain. There is currently very little we can do to improve recovery from stroke. In our first study, we were able to show that a drug called Idebenone protects the brain from further damage after a stroke. This is really promising data, but we still need to do more investigation with this drug to understand exactly how it works to do this and what the potential side-effects of Idebenone might be.

 “A major issue with the drugs we give to people to treat brain diseases like stroke is the off target effects the drugs have on other parts of the body. Thanks to funding from the Foundation, we have developed a new way of concentrating drug delivery to the brain using ultrasound. This technology is completely safe to use in people and allows us to increase drug delivery to the brain while reducing the off-target effects on other organs. Our next challenge is to see if we can apply this new technology to improve drug delivery in the context of brain disorders such as brain cancer and stroke so that ultimately, we can improve health outcomes,” he said.

While the Foundation commends Dino and his team for such outstanding work, we know that this wouldn’t be possible without the support of our donors and corporate partners. Thank you!

You can support ground breaking research like Dino's by making an online donation today, or calling one of our friendly team members on (03) 6166 1319.

Cardio-Vascular Disease (CVD) causes more Tasmanian deaths than any other condition. It is linked to over 3,000 Tasmanian deaths each year and is a major burden to Tasmanians and our community. This impacts on quality of life, but also through high use of health services, particularly at the Royal Hobart Hospital (RHH), where the statewide services of cardiac surgery, vascular surgery and stroke services are based.

Led by Professor Matthew Jose, a state-wide research team made up of clinicians from general practice, together with those involved in public health, kidney disease, diabetes, cholesterol and heart disease was funded to undertake vital Tasmanian focused research in late 2019 and early 2020. We are pleased to report that this study has uncovered some very important information that will help ongoing medical research for years to come. You may remember the roll-out of media coverage around our community health campaign focusing on vascular disease that saw the community dig deep to ensure this $25k study could be funded. We featured the story of local Tasmanian, Scott Salter, who suffered two heart attacks before undergoing triple bypass surgery at the RHH at Christmas time 2018. Scott is 58 and knows first-hand how close he was to having this disease devastate his life. His message was clear, “don’t leave it too late to get checked”.

Greater awareness and support is critical for people with high cholesterol. We need to identify and fully treat these people to try and prevent future heart attacks, strokes or death from Cardio-vascular Disease.

The study titled “A comprehensive examination of potentially modifiable vascular disease risk factors and their consequences in Tasmania” saw a local research team from across the state dive into data to analyse which Tasmanian communities have high levels or risk factors for vascular disease (kidney disease, cholesterol, or diabetes). Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation CEO, Heather Francis, said this clinical research project and many others will have lasting impact for generations of Tasmanians to come.

“There is so much to be done to improve the health status of Tasmanians. Funding these important research programs is only possible through the assistance of our community. Generous support will help us work toward this goal, but it is important to know that the impact of this study has already been particularly vital,” she said. With the help of Sonic Laboratories (Hobart Pathology, Launceston Pathology and North-West Pathology) plus Pathology South, the team examined 398,649 unidentified Tasmanians who had their lipids, glucose or creatinine measured between 2004 – 2017. The team then reported these by age, gender, geographic region (South, North or North-west Tasmania as well as smaller local communities). We think you’ll join us in being excited about another example of cutting-edge research happening right here at our doorstep with involvement of many locals, all aimed to benefit Tasmanians in years to come.

You can help support projects like this one and many more by making an online donation today. Thank you for continuing to support groundbreaking Tasmanian medical research.

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