Blue-Sky grants benefit medical research

1 November 2011

Professor John Rasko
Professor John Rasko

A team headed by haematologist John Rasko has won one of two inaugural Blue-Sky Grants, awarded by the Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund, to continue its research into human cell reproduction. The awards are each worth $100,000.

Profesor Rasko, the head of Gene Therapy and Haematology at the Centenary Institute, has recently shown that blood-forming cells respond favourably to being grown on an elastic bed or 'nano mattress'.

"Our new project will test the potential of the nano-mattress to enhance the ability of other human cells found in the bone marrow to make bone and connective tissue such as tendons and cartilage," he said.

Professor Rasko is collaborating on the project with Professor Dan Gazit of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Their research could potentially be used in the treatment of diseases affecting the heart, joints, bones and immune systems.

Professor Jacob George
Professor Jacob George

A second award has been given to a team headed by Yehudit Bergman of Hebrew University, which includes Professor Jacob George of the University of Sydney.

Working in mice models of human cancers, Professor Bergman's team has shown that pregnancy induces the rapid growth of liver cells, accelerating liver regeneration and reducing mortality.

"We will now attempt to identify the factors generated during pregnancy which induce this regeneration, explore their ability to reduce mortality, and examine the mechanisms of their action on liver cells," she said.

"Our aim is to identify therapeutic options for humans requiring resection of liver tumours, whether primary or secondary."

The Zelman Cowen Fund was set up in 1978 by Sydney businessman John Hammond to support medical and scientific research and to promote cooperation between the University of Sydney and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The Blue-Sky Grant scheme was established earlier this year to provide seed funding for research in emerging areas such as organ and tissue regeneration.

The awards were announced yesterday during the University of Sydney - Israel Research Forum.

Contact: Sue Freedman-Levy

Phone: 02 9351 6558

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