Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) researchers have received federal funding for studies that aim to boost the health of transgender young people, uncover the hidden impacts of intimate partner violence and improve our understanding of food allergies and the leading infectious cause of hearing loss.
The four projects, announced by the Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, were awarded National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies Grants.
“Many transgender young people experience gender dysphoria, which in turn is associated with high rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm and attempted suicide,” he said. “To address these needs, increasing numbers of transgender young people have been presenting to specialist gender clinics around the world.”
Associate Professor Pang said the study would improve the clinical care of young people who receive specialist gender support by identifying the trajectories, outcomes and predictors of their health and well-being.
“Intimate partner violence is a global public health issue affecting the lives of one in three families. Despite this, there is still limited understanding of the role of exposure to intimate partner violence in early, middle, and late childhood in shaping young people's mental health, behaviours and formation of healthy peer and intimate partner relationships,” she said.
Professor Brown said the study would explore the cumulative effects of intimate partner violence and produce new evidence to inform first line responses in the health, education and social care sectors and targeted interventions to promote resilience, healing and recovery.
“Although food allergy may resolve in childhood, little is known about why some children outgrow their food allergies and others have persistent disease,” she said. “Understanding the mechanisms and predictors that govern the persistence of food allergy into adolescence is critical because young people are at greatest risk of life-threatening allergic reactions.”
Dr Peters said the study would help identify modifiable risk factors that may prevent the progression of food allergy in early childhood to chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma by adolescence.
Dr Valerie Sung was allocated a grant to trial a test for congenital cytomegalovirus (cCMV), the leading infectious cause of deafness and neurodevelopmental disability, which could be treatable within the time-critical newborn period.
“Our study will test a cost-effective public health strategy by validating a new screening test for targeted newborn cCMV screening,” she said.
“It will address pressing questions about cCMV to inform screening, future intervention and vaccine trials and help inform precision medicine to the correct patient groups.”
Dr Sung said the study would enable accurate cCMV diagnosis, reduce unnecessary parental guilt, and establish a framework to prevent lifelong disabilities.