Bone disease research gets funding boost

04 June 2015
Professor Ian Reid
Professor Ian Reid

A bone disease research programme is one of 11 successful University of Auckland applications for health research funding with this round’s grants totalling about $14.65 million.

A research programme that will progress prevention and management of several bone-related conditions has received funding of nearly $5 million over the next five years.

The Health Research Council (NZ) has today announced funding for the ‘Mechanisms and management of musculoskeletal disease’ led by Distinguished Professor Ian Reid from the University of Auckland.

Professor Reid is an endocrinologist specialising in bone disease who will lead the teams involved in the five projects that make up this research programme.

“These studies involve a broad group of researchers including clinicians, scientists, statisticians, nurses and surgeons,” says Professor Reid.  “Some will involve volunteers from the public, some will involve patients with these conditions, and some will be carried out in the laboratory.

“These projects have the capacity to provide a new convenient way of preventing fractures in older women at intermediate fracture risk, re-assess the importance of dietary calcium and calcium supplements in bone health, improve management for severe gout, and develop artificial bone substitutes for use in managing fractures and some bone cancers where there is a need to fill local bone defects,” he says.

The five projects are;

  • A random controlled trial (RCT) of zoledronate infusions every 18 months for fracture prevention in women at intermediate fracture risk
  • A systematic review of all studies relating calcium intake to fracture risk, to provide a sound basis for advice to practitioners and the public for recommendations in this area
  • An RCT of intensive drug treatment of gout, to determine whether this reduces joint damage
  • A comparison of bone cell function between people in their 50s and those aged >75 years, to define what changes occur in cell function with age that might contribute to the development of osteoporosis
  • Development of bone substitutes that can be used to promote healing of severe fractures or large areas of damaged bone

“These studies will increase understanding of why osteoporosis develops in old age and advance its treatment and that of gout, both common musculoskeletal problems in older New Zealanders,” says Professor Reid.

A study that follows up on a successful trial of a cheap oral gel for treating low blood sugar levels in newborn babies has also received HRC funding for five years.

Distinguished Professor Jane Harding, a neonatal paediatrician and Vice-chancellor of Research at the University of Auckland, has received more than $1 million for this project.

Professor Harding and her team have provided the first evidence-based strategy to treat low blood sugar levels that affects up to 15 per cent of otherwise healthy babies.

They will follow-up babies treated with an oral glucose gel as newborns at two-years of age to ensure the safety and efficacy of the treatment before it’s introduced into clinical practice.

 “The importance of this work cannot be overstated,” says HRC Chief Executive Professor Kath McPherson. “Such an intervention could prevent brain damage in babies, improve breastfeeding rates and long-term health, prevent major distress for affected families, and save our health system significant costs, potentially revolutionising the management of neonatal hypoglycaemia around the world.”

“Two dollars is all it costs to produce the oral gel which has been shown to prevent brain damage in a newborn. This is a small price to pay, given that treating the 2,100 babies severely affected by low blood sugar levels in the neonatal intensive care unit each year costs the nation $9.4 million,” she says.

The following is a summary of other University of Auckland health research projects that received funding from the HRC in this latest round.

  • Professor Larry Chamley (Obstetrics and Gynaecology). ‘A healthy life starts with a bio-energetically healthy placenta’, 36 months, $ 1,193,142
  • Associate Professor Alan Davidson (Molecular Medicine and Pathology). ‘The role of the Pax-Notch pathway in kidney disease’, 36 months, $1,067,513
  • Associate Professor Bronwen Connor (Pharmacology/CBR). ‘Cellular reprogramming: A unique approach to understanding Huntington's disease’, 36 months, $1,190,497
  • Dr Bridget Kool (Epidemiology and Biostatistics). ‘Prehospital injury deaths: preventability, service accessibility and equity’, 24 months, $598,181
  • Dr Fiona McBryde (Physiology). ‘Hypertension after stroke – therapeutic or pathological?’, 36 months, $1,055,738
  • Professor Mark McKeage, (Pharmacology). ‘Lung cancer genetic testing in New Zealand’, 36 months, $1,182,641
  • Dr Thomas Proft (Molecular Medicine). ‘TeeVax - a novel vaccine against group A streptococcus?’, 36 months, $1,122,354
  • Dr Vanessa Selak (Epidemiology and Biostatistics).  Aspirin harm benefit calculator to guide cardiovascular primary prevention, 24 months, $632,382
  • Dr Natalie Walker (National Institute of Health Innovation). ‘The combined use of nicotine replacement therapy and e-cigarettes’, 36 months, $1,199,916

 

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