Monash Centre for Inflammatory Diseases
Research - Autoimmunity
The Autoimmunity Group is primarily interested in understanding the nature and mechanisms of autoimmune disease with the aim of designing potential therapies. A major focus of this group is to manipulate the immune system to promote immunological tolerance to causative self-antigens as a basis of curing autoimmunity.
Autoimmune diseases affect approximately five percent of our population. These conditions are currently incurable. As a group of diseases, it comprises the third-largest disease burden after heart disease and cancer. Our efforts are directed towards exploring innovative strategies to render self-reactive lymphocytes tolerant to their cognate antigen. We believe manipulation of the immune system is a feasible strategy that can be used to prevent and cure autoimmune diseases. Our approaches include the application of gene-therapy strategies and regulatory T cells to control the autoimmune response. For these studies we use experimental mouse models of autoimmune (type 1) diabetes, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune nephritis and autoimmune gastritis. Our collaborators are Professor Len Harrison, Associate Professor Robyn Slattery (autoimmune diabetes), Professor Claude Bernard (multiple sclerosis) and Professor Stephen Holdsworth and Associate Professor Richard Kitching (autoimmune nephritis).
Heart disease is the number one killer in our community, the underlying basis of which is thickening of arteries by the pathological process of atherosclerosis. In collaboration with Professor Alex Bobik of the Baker Heart Research Institute and Associate Professor Peter Tipping, our efforts are directed towards understanding the role of the innate and adaptive Immune system in atherosclerosis initiation and progression with a view to using this new-found knowledge to control this process. We collaborate with Associate Professor Eric Morand in studies on the role of MIF (Macrophage Inhibitory Factor) in atherosclerosis.
Cell Division Autoantigens
Cancer, characterised by uncontrolled cell division, is the number two killer in our community. Identification of autoantigens implicated in cell division recognised by autoantibodies is a major spin-off of our autoimmunity studies. Two of these molecules are currently under active investigation: mitotic chromosomal antigen, in collaboration with Dr. Jan-Michael Peters at the Institute of Molecular Pathology, Vienna, Austria and cell division autoantigen-1, in collaboration with Professor Mark Cooper and Dr. Zhonglin Chai at the Baker Heart Research Institute.