Diabetes


Student project opportunities 


Genetic analyses of type 1 diabetes 

Research area: Genetics,  type 1 diabetes
Chief supervisor: Professor Grant Morahan
Other supervisors: Dr Joey Kay (Director, Dept of Endocrinology and Diabetes, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital)
Project suitable for: PhD
Essential qualifications: B. Sc (Hons.) or MBBS.  Familiarity with genetic concepts and terms would be an advantage.
Funding available: The prospective PhD student would need to obtain a scholarship (e.g. APA). A scholarship top-up is available for a high achieving student.
Start date: Anytime

Project outline
Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease in which the insulin-producing beta cells are destroyed. It usually has an onset in childhood, but people at any age may be affected. T1D is increasing in frequency, and Australia has one of the highest rates in the world.

Over the last decade, we have been part of the worldwide Type 1 Diabetes Genetics Consortium, dedicated to identifying the genetic risk factors for T1D. For the Consortium, we conducted the world’s largest family-based genetic study for any disease. The Consortium identified over 50 genes that contribute to T1D susceptibility.

We have applied advanced genetic analysis methods to identify how these genes interact and affect an individual’s risk of disease. We found there are six main types of T1D, and these differ in many clinical characteristics.

In this project, these subtypes will be investigated in more detail, with the help of people with T1D attending the Diabetes Clinic at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital. In collaboration with other endocrinologists around Australia, we will also investigate other aspects of T1D, including gene-environment interactions, and develop diagnostic tests to predict children at high risk.

This project provides an opportunity to work with a group that has a strong track record in analyses of the genetics of T1D and other complex genetic diseases and in systems genetics, and to develop links with diabetes experts around Australia and internationally.

Contact
Professor Grant Morahan - grant.morahan@uwa.edu.au



Finding a cure for diabetic retinopathy

Research area: Genetics, diabetic complications
Chief supervisor: Professor Grant Morahan
Other supervisors: Dr Lois Balmer
Project suitable for: PhD
Essential qualifications: B. Sc Hons. Experience in genetics  and with mice would be an advantage.
Funding available: The prospective PhD student would need to obtain a scholarship (e.g. APA). A scholarship top-up is available for a high achieving student.
Start date: Anytime

Project outline
Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in working-age people, and will become a bigger problem in the coming decades due to the rising incidence of diabetes worldwide. About a third of people with diabetes are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.  However, it is currently not possible to identify those who are at highest risk.  There is currently no effective preventative therapy, and those affected generally require laser treatment or surgery.

We have used our world-leading genetic resource, “The Gene Mine”, to develop an animal model of diabetic retinopathy.  The Gene Mine is a collection of recombinant inbred mouse strains that capture over 90% of the  common genetic variation in the mouse species. We have used The Gene Mine for rapid mapping and identification of genes affecting many traits.  In this project, this model will be used to find genes that can protect against diabetic retinopathy. Identifying protective genes will help in developing preventative therapies, and also in developing diagnostic tests to identify people most at risk. By testing progeny of the DR-prone mice and various Gene Mine strains, we will be able to map protective genes rapidly.

Our model will also be used to test compounds that may prevent diabetic retinopathy. These compounds include those that will be provided by our colleagues from the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

This project provides an opportunity to work with a group that has a strong track record in analyses of complex genetic diseases and in systems genetics, and which has a world-leading resource in The Gene Mine.

Contact 
Professor Grant Morahan - grant.morahan@uwa.edu.au


Identifying who is most likely to die from heart disease

Research area: Genetics, computer sciences, cardiology
Chief supervisor: Professor Grant Morahan
Other supervisors: Prof Peter Thompson
Project suitable for: PhD
Essential qualifications: Advanced mathematical and computer science skills. Familiarity with genetic concepts and terms would be an advantage. B. Sc Hons.
Funding available: The prospective PhD student would need to obtain a scholarship (e.g. APA).
Start date: Anytime

Project outline 
Heart disease is a leading cause of death worldwide. We have used our world-leading genetic methods to develop a diagnostic test that can identify people at highest risk of early death from heart disease. This test is based on sophisticated genetic signatures that can distinguish high and low risk groups.

Working with collaborators in the Eastern states, as well as China, India and Europe, this project will further develop and refine the test. The project will involve analyses of genome-wide genetic data from thousands of people enrolled in cohorts for study of genetic epidemiology. We will apply machine-learning methods to optimize prediction of people at highest risk of developing heart attacks or stroke. Other diseases can also be investigated using the same methodology.

This project provides an opportunity to work with a group that has a strong track record in analyses of complex genetic diseases and in systems genetics, and to build skills in IT, especially in machine learning techniques and parallel computing.

Contact
Professor Grant Morahan - grant.morahan@uwa.edu.au



Identifying genetic signatures of high risk cancer

Research area: Cancer, genetics
Chief supervisor: Professor Grant Morahan
Other supervisors: Dr Andy Redfern
Project suitable for: PhD
Essential qualifications:  Advanced mathematical and computer science skills. Familiarity with genetic concepts and terms. B. Sc Hons.
Funding available: The prospective PhD student would need to obtain a scholarship (e.g. APA).
Start date: Anytime

Project outline
Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide. We have used our world-leading genetic methods to develop a diagnostic test that can identify people at highest risk of early death from melanoma. This test is based on sophisticated genetic signatures that can distinguish high and low risk groups.

This project will apply the same methods to identifying patients at highest risk for other cancers, particularly breast cancer and colorectal cancer. The project will involve analyses of genome-wide genetic data from thousands of patients enrolled in cohorts for study of genetic epidemiology of cancer. We will apply machine-learning methods to optimize prediction of people at highest risk of early death from cancer.

This project provides an opportunity to work with a group that has a strong track record in analyses of complex genetic diseases and in systems genetics, and to build skills in IT, especially in machine learning techniques and parallel computing.

Contact
Professor Grant Morahan - grant.morahan@uwa.edu.au

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