22 Aug 2018

Spotlight on our NHMRC Fellowship winners: Associate Professor Christoph Hagemeyer

A/Professor Christopher Hagemeyer
by Anne Crawford

Associate Professor Christoph Hagemeyer. Senior Research Fellowship A (SFRA) to; develop smart targeted nanoparticles for diagnosis and therapy.  

Associate Professor Hagemeyer’s groundbreaking work in the emerging field of nanomedicine has been given a large boost with an NHMRC fellowship supporting him as a researcher for five years and also a ‘Translation Advancement Incentive’ to allow him to translate his research into clinical practice.

The funds will benefit three areas of research.

The first will extend his work on targeted thrombolysis. “When a clot forms in a blood vessel you need to inject something that will restore the flow of blood very quickly,” Assoc. Professor Hagemeyer explained. “We have developed nanoparticles that can respond to the clotting environment,” he said.

The nanoparticles release a payload of drug, usually a strong clot-buster, when they come close to a blood clot to restore the blood flow in the vessel.

“Because the drug is encapsulated in the nanoparticle it is safe to administer as it is not leaking systemically into the blood circulation, it is very specifically released just where the clot is happening,” he said.

The second project, in the area of diabetes, is developing smart insulin nanoparticles.

“We’re developing nanoparticles which can detect high glucose. Loaded insulin is dose-dependently released so the particles should function like normal beta cells that make insulin in the pancreas of the patient.”

In people with type 1 diabetes these cells have reduced or no function because the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and kills them, so these patients need to inject insulin, a hormone essential to helping the body use glucose.

Currently there is no cure for type 1 diabetes, which is a life-threatening disease.  

Assoc. Professor Hagemeyer will also look at ways of tackling heart failure and arrhythmias.

“In this project we’re looking at how the heart changes when we get older or have a heart attack or you have a genetic predisposition which is causing the heart to fail, reducing the ability to pump blood,” he said.

This heart failure can be a consequence of arrhythmias or also be caused by them. An arrhythmia is an abnormal heart rhythm; the heart might skip or add a beat.

“These are serious problems and, with a growing ageing population, are going to increase over the next decade or so.

“So we’re trying to understand what is causing these changes in the heart muscle and develop treatments to reverse the heart failure and treat arrhythmias.”

Assoc. Professor Hagemeyer said receiving the NHMRC funding was “a great honour” and would give him the certainty to pursue his research for a reasonably long period of time.

“Having five years of security to really tackle the big questions in long-term projects is very good.”

Associate Professor Christoph Hagemeyer, a chemist by training, obtained a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Freiburg (Germany). He migrated to Australia in 2005 and now heads the NanoBiotechnology Laboratory at the Australian Centre for Blood Diseases (ACBD). He has particular expertise in the use of small recombinant single-chain antibodies for molecular imaging and drug delivery. He has published widely in leading journals on vascular biology, recombinant antibodies and nanotechnology and has been supported throughout his career by national and international fellowships and grants.

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