GenV research project into health problems

At The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH), clinicians and researchers are tackling the biggest health problems facing children, from mental health, to obesity, autism and allergies.

Thanks to the Good Friday Appeal and Run for the Kids, a new digital platform will help collect information for a large-scale population health study to provide the big picture on the current health challenges facing children.

Led by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) and Scientific Director Professor Melissa Wake, the ambitious Generation Victoria (GenV) research project will ask all Victorian families with babies born in 2021 – 2022 to be involved.

“GenV offers the possibility of a better future for us all. It aims to gather information from around 150,000 babies born over the next two years and their parents, and to follow them into the future. This will give us a research platform to better understand problems such as asthma, food allergies, obesity and mental illness, and give us the opportunity to better treat and prevent common and complex conditions,” said Melissa.

GenV research team from MCRI, including Melissa (front centre)

Health, development and wellbeing information from both parents and their newborns will be collected over a number of years via the Personize Digital Platform. Measuring characteristics on such a large scale will inform targeted research to change the future of children’s health.

“The Personize data platform is vital to GenV’s success. It solves research roadblocks of size, speed, cost and burden – not just for GenV, but for other studies too. Families can contribute their research data via ultra-short and engaging digital sessions. This means that everyone, no matter who or where they are, can take part easily from home,” said Melissa.

“GenV truly is a collaborative study and a partnership of many. We are profoundly grateful to supporters of Run for the Kids and the Good Friday Appeal for making the Personize data platform possible.”

Published: 3 December 2021

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Clinician Scientist Fellowships

The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) attracts the best medical minds from across the world to create a brighter future for children’s healthcare. Thanks to the Good Friday Appeal, the Clinicians Scientist Fellows are being supported to focus on vital research to find new cures, treatments and medications for the biggest health problems facing children.

In any one year there are about 20 fellows at various stages of their five year fellowship.

Professor Rick Leventer is one of the current Clinician Scientist Fellows. As a paediatric neurologist, Rick sees patients with all types of neurological disorders and has particular research interests in genetic diseases of the central nervous system that affect how the brain develops during pregnancy and in the first years of life.

“Before the fellowship, I was doing most of my research in my spare time and after hours as it was a struggle to find the time to do it effectively whilst trying to balance all of my clinical duties,” said Rick.

The face of the 2021 Appeal Malu has epilepsy

Thanks to your support of the Good Friday Appeal, Rick is able to further his work as both a clinician and scientist with protected time to focus on his research. Through the Clinician Scientist Fellowship, Rick is able to offer patients and families seen in his neuro-genetic clinic, including those with epilepsy, the opportunity to be part of research on early brain development, making direct impact on his patient’s care.

Part of Rick’s research involves analysing the brain tissue collected during a hemispherectomy – a surgery to disconnect or remove parts of the brain that are causing seizures – to find the cause of epilepsy.

“With the parent’s permission, some of the brain tissue that is removed is saved and snap frozen in the operating theatre. We then take it directly to the laboratory for genetic and microscopic analysis where we try and understand why the brain may have developed abnormally to cause seizures.”

Through the fellowship, Rick and his team have already made some exciting breakthroughs, including identifying specific nerve cells that carry a genetic error which trigger epileptic seizures. This has been a significant finding not only for medical professionals, but also to help families understand the cause of their child’s condition.

Rick’s discoveries are also important for the future of children’s health, creating opportunities for further research into precision medicine to target the genetic error and guide the best surgical approaches aimed at the smallest amount of tissue necessary to control seizures.

Rick is one of 20 fellows at the RCH who are able to mentor younger clinicians interested in research.

“The funds put in to support one clinician scientist are actually multiplied many times by the influence we can have on other researchers on campus,” said Rick.

Thanks to the support from the Good friday Appeal, clinician scientists at the RCH have dedicated time to advance the care of sick children in Victoria and beyond.

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The CLARITY Juvenile Arthritis Research Platform

With support from the Good Friday Appeal, The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) Department of Rheumatology has established the CLARITY Juvenile Arthritis Research Platform to better understand and treat the disease.

The RCH and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute are home to Australia’s only paediatric rheumatology research program, and the new CLARITY study is set to help translate research findings into practice, improving clinical care for children both locally, nationally and internationally. With the aim of enrolling 250 participants annually, the study will enable new research that aims to identify biomarkers for diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of children with juvenile arthritis.

Photo: RCH Melbourne – Creative Studio Photography
Posted June 2018

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