The University of Sydney
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Final Report

With support from a special donation from the John Hammond Trust, this initiative was established in late 2011 to support development of novel scientific ideas and promote cooperative work between USYD and HU.

Applications were open to scientists from both Universities and stated a preference for a joint project between scientists of both Universities. The quality and number of applications received for the Grant resulted in the Trustees’ decision to make two awards, each of $100,000 in the new scheme.

The grants were awarded to teams headed by:

  • Prof John Rasko, USYD & RPA Hospital, for a collaboration with Prof Dan Gazit, HU

and

  • Prof Yehudit Bergman, HU, for a collaboration with Prof Jacob George, USYD


Prof Rasko’s project, Optimising stem cell growth in the laboratory for use in regenerative medicine, built on earlier work showing that blood-forming cells respond favourably to being grown on an elastic bed or “nano-mattress”.

Reporting on the awarded work, Prof Rasko wrote, “Tropoelastin has been shown to modulate biological pathways inside cells. This affects the ability of stem cells to differentiate to different mature cell types with different functions such as cartilage and bone. Through the use of tropoelastin and shorter derivatives, we demonstrated that signalling is mediated through at least two pathways: an elastin binding protein and a cell adhesion molecule. Our findings support the concept that tropoelastin participates in regulatory control. Collaborations have been established to further investigate the mechanisms involved in the control of cell differentiation by substrate elasticity.”

Prof Bergman’s project, Identifying novel factors for improving liver regeneration in the elderly also built on earlier work where it was shown, in mice models of human cancers, that pregnancy induces the rapid growth of liver cells, accelerating liver regeneration and reducing mortality.

Summing up new findings, Prof Bergman wrote, “ Our results shed light on the basic mechanisms of liver regeneration, helping identify potential therapeutic options for enhancing the regenerative capacity of the liver in the elderly. This is significant as age-induced impairment of liver regeneration prevents surgery for liver metastases in the elderly. We can now think about clinical trials aimed at improving the regenerative capacity of the liver in the elderly. This could dramatically alter their options regarding liver surgery. ”

One aim of establishing these grants was to provide an opportunity for novel ideas to gain sufficient momentum to be competitive in larger funding systems, and reach success more quickly than otherwise. The Trustees will follow these projects with interest to see where they lead.