23 Apr 2021
Research into the effects of COVID-19 on different organs receives funding boost
A study into the effects of COVID-19 on different organs has received a State Government funding boost to further its research focus to include emerging strains, long-term symptoms and potential links between the virus and unborn children.
The additional research will build on the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute’s (MCRI’s) led-project that uses human stem cells to better understand the effects of the virus on different organ systems in the body including the lungs, heart, kidneys, brain, immune system and blood vessels, to support the development of targeted treatments. The research has already deepened our understanding on how coronavirus impacts on the heart.
The group of scientists from MCRI, the Doherty Institute, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and Monash University will use the funding to include placental tissue to gain greater insight into the effects of coronavirus on the placenta and potential transfer of the virus to the fetus.
The funding will also see the team investigate cellular mechanisms leading to lingering “long COVID” issues such as fatigue and ongoing breathing problems and analyse international variants to understand the impacts of more infectious strains.
This is the first time research of this kind has been done in Australia, with MCRI one of only a few facilities worldwide able to study the effect of the virus on every major human organ.
MCRI Theme Director of Cell Biology Professor Melissa Little said the team have already identified issues with the heart muscle as a result of the virus disrupting oxygen supply.
The collaborative study has benefitted from cutting edge stem cell processing equipment, which recreates human tissues infected with COVID-19.
“This research has brought together an outstanding group of stem cell researchers with virologists to address important questions about COVID-19 in different organs. We anticipate that our findings will translate to novel treatment strategies,” said Professor Kanta Subbarao, collaborator and Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza.
The Stafford Fox Medical Research Foundation Stem Cell Based Disease Modelling Facility at MCRI also provides capacity to perform rapid drug screening to allow for swift transition from diagnosis to treatment.
The project has received $2.3 million overall under the government’s COVID-19 Research Fund.