News

New research lab opens at Woolcock Institute


22 April 2010

L-R: Mark Compton (Chairman of Woolcock Institute), Judy Black (Head, Cell Biology Group), Bettina Arndt (LARA Patron), Norbert Berend (Research Director of Woolcock Institute).
L-R: Mark Compton (Chairman of Woolcock Institute), Judy Black (Head, Cell Biology Group), Bettina Arndt (LARA Patron), Norbert Berend (Research Director of Woolcock Institute).

The Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, a leading institute specialising in respiratory and sleep research, officially opened the doors of its new laboratories in Glebe on Wednesday, 21 April, 2010.

Bettina Arndt, journalist and Patron of the LAM Australasia Research Alliance (LARA) opened the labs to an audience of over 50 external guests.

The new labs will investigate the cellular and molecular causes of chronic airway diseases. A specific focus for 2010 is the Institute's unique research into LAM (lymphangioleiomyomatosis), a very rare and incurable lung disease.

LAM is a progressive lung disease caused by a random gene mutation, which affects only women and strikes in the prime of their lives typically during child bearing years. Although prognosis is improving, a sufferer's lifespan was predicted at 10-15 years from diagnosis and there is currently no cure, with a lung transplant the ultimate treatment.

Research is integral to understanding the causes of LAM, including why it affects only women, as well as developing treatments and improving patient outcomes. The Cell Biology Group, which now opens a new laboratory at the Institute, is currently conducting specific cell research into LAM.

The Cell Biology Group, with support from the CRC for Asthma and Airways, made an important discovery in 2008, which involved identifying and cloning a molecule (now called 'lamstatin') which is present in healthy, but not LAM lungs. This molecule stops the growth of LAM cells and the overgrowth of lymph vessels.

This discovery has brought the team closer to their goal of understanding where LAM cells originate and how they divide and migrate. The group hopes to discover a solution by investigating the similarities LAM has to other diseases.

Research leader, Professor Judy Black said the Cell Biology Group were a very passionate team of researchers.

"Patients with LAM who are undergoing lung transplantation are very keen to 'donate' their diseased lungs to us," she said.

"The availability of such precious tissue opens up rare research possibilities. Just last month when a LAM lung arrived in the lab, the whole group immediately diverted their attention to it.

"Most women and even some health care professionals are unaware of LAM's existence and symptoms and we suspect that the disease is under-diagnosed as a result."

Further information can be found at the LAM Australasia Research Alliance (LARA) website.


Media inquiries: Sarah Stock, 0419 278 715, sarah.stock@sydney.edu.au