Monash neuroinflammation research recognised at national conference

Monash research was recognised recently at the Australian Vascular Biology Soceity (AVBS) conference in Queensland, with researchers from the Neuroinflammation research group in the Centre for Inflammatory Diseases taking out the lion’s share of the awards.

PhD students Raymond Shim and SJ Shen, and early career researcher Dr Shu Wen Wen each received awards for their outstanding research.

Attending his very first conference, second year PhD student Raymond was the AVBS student oral presentation winner.

Raymond is investigating how injury to the brain after stroke causes the immune suppression that predisposes patients to infection.

“Stroke is a leading contributor of death and disability around the world, and while stroke is mostly associated with neurological consequences, infection is extremely prevalent and can be fatal to stroke patients,” Raymond said.

“We hope to identify pathways that the brain and central nervous system can induce immune changes following cerebral damage.”

“If we can identify a pathway in which immune suppression is induced by the brain, we can potentially develop therapeutics that reduce immune suppression and prevent infectious complications in stroke patients.”

Fellow PhD student SJ Shen received the Student presentation runners-up prize for his presentation into how a certain type of immune cell (neutrophils) affects the outcome of Ulcerative Colitis.

“Prior research has shown that neutrophil numbers are associated with the severity of Ulcerative Colitis, however, we’ve demonstrated that this is not the case,” SJ said.

“In fact, we found neutrophils can function in an anti-inflammatory manner and help suppress disease progression. My studies highlight the complexity of the role of neutrophils in disease.”

SJ said there have been clinical trials that used drugs to try and prevent immune cells (including neutrophils) from entering the colon but his team’s discovery shows that this may not be the best approach.

“Instead, development of drugs that can change neutrophils to be good at suppressing colitis will provide an avenue for future treatments for patients suffering from Ulcerative Colitis.”

Meanwhile, ECR Dr Shu Wen Wen received a “Highly Commended Award” for her ECR Oral Presentation.

Dr Wen said that while the elderly are known to suffer more debilitating outcomes after stroke, it is unclear if post-stroke infection is a major contributing factor.

“My project aims to understand if the development of infections after stroke is age-dependent, and if so, to assess mechanisms that render the elderly more susceptible,” Dr Wen said.

“Our studies indicate that stroke lowers our overall immunity in an age-dependent manner, thereby increasing the chances of contracting bacterial infections.”

“The knowledge gained from this project will inform clinicians on the potential benefits of incorporating therapies that can enhance patient immunity to reduce the incidence of post-stroke infection.”

Neuroinflammation group head, Dr Connie Wong said it was a fantastic achievement for each of them to be selected to present their research in the oral format at this annual meeting, but also to win awards was a great reflection of their hard work.

The three award recipients said they were honoured to have received their awards and to have been recognised for their work, and were extremely grateful for Dr Wong’s ongoing support.