6 Dec 2019

Congratulations to 2019 ARC Discovery project CCS recipients Merlin Thomas and Kelly Wyres!

Dr Kelly Wyres
Professor Merlin Thomas
Congratulations to Central Clinical School's Professor Merlin Thomas and Dr Kelly Wyres on their Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery grant awards! Read more about their grants below.
  • Professor Merlin Thomas, Department of Diabetes group.
    Augmenting the activity of glyoxalase-1 to increase dicarbonyl clearance, $605,000 (2020-2022). ARC ID DP200101965
  • Dr Kelly Wyres, Department of Infectious Diseases group.
    Unlocking the secrets of metabolic variation in a highly diverse bacterium. $515,322 (2020-2022) ARC ID DP200103364 
i.  Slowing down ageing

Ageing affects everyone and everything. It is now recognised that reactive intermediates generated by our metabolism contribute to biological ageing.

Professor Merlin Thomas from the Department of Diabetes is conducting a project aiming to better understand the regulation of glyoxalase-1 (GLO-1), an enzyme that clears these toxic intermediates and so provides critical protection against ageing.

Professor Merlin Thomas has been awarded an ARC Discovery Project grant worth $605,000
over three years to support the interdisciplinary study, which looks at increasing the activity of GLO-1 as an important regulator of biological ageing. Currently, its regulation remains poorly understood. There are no means to selectively modulate GLO-1 expression and activity.

“In particular, we don’t know why the functions of glyoxalase decline with age, accelerating the ageing of our tissues,” Professor Thomas said, “but we plan to.”

Professor Thomas, Chief Investigator (CI), will combine relevant cell and animal models, protein chemistry, epigenetics and structural biology to generate new knowledge about the enzyme. The project will investigate novel pathways showing how the expression and activity of glyoxalase-1 are regulated. It will extend new discoveries made by Professor Thomas and his team to establish ‘proof of principle’ technologies to slow ageing, and models in which to effectively explore them. 

“It’s great to be working on understanding a fundamental process like ageing because it’s relevant to everyone and everything,” he said. “Every cell in every organism knows how to protect itself against biological ageing. If we can only harness these natural tools, we can change how time affects our bodies.”

ii. Battling a bug: Klebsiella pneumoniae 

Dr Kelly Wyres is CI for a team including Associate Professor Kathryn Holt, the research leader of Kelly's group from Monash University, and an investigator each from the University of California, San Diego and The Pasteur Institute.

The team's aim is to unlock the secrets of metabolic variation in a highly diverse bacterium, Klebsiella pneumoniae (K. pneumoniae).

K. pneumoniae is an issue for the agricultural, veterinary, medical and biotechnology industries. It is a significant cause of animal and human diseases, potentially transmitted via the food chain and infecting thousands of Australian each year with associated morbidity and economic costs.

The project aims to understand the biology of this diverse organism via an innovative combination of DNA sequence analyses and metabolic modelling. The knowledge generated will improve our understanding of K. pneumoniae, and potentially provide a mechanism to identify paths by which the bacteria spread in the environment and food chain. The results will inform future efforts to design novel therapeutics, control strategies and policies. This should provide major benefits for understanding bacterial ecology and evolution, and for future studies seeking to optimise industrial processes or prevent disease. It will also directly contribute to building Australia’s capacity in computational biology - a key driver of biotechnology innovation.

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