Hormone Research

The Centre for Hormone Research is the research arm of the Department of Endocrinology and Diabetes at The Royal Children’s Hospital and is based at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute. The Centre’s mission is to understand the causes, and seek more effective prevention and treatment, of diabetes, obesity and disorders that affect growth, bone health, and sexual development in children. The team’s vision is to provide affected children and their families with a future free of physical, social and emotional handicap.

The Centre’s research has been highly successful to date. Highlights include important discoveries about the damaging effects of diabetes on the developing brain, with long-term effects on both brain structure and function; unique and effective approaches to diabetes pump technology; insights into the critical role of the insulin-like growth factor system in both early development and particularly in cancer and obesity, with potential new therapies emerging;  and highly effective therapies for genetic disorders of bone, allowing mobility and improved strength.

Results from the group’s research directly impact how children are managed and treated at The Royal Children’s Hospital. The results will also help provide more evidence for better management and new therapies which can be used worldwide to optimise care and improve health outcomes and quality of life for our children.

The centre’s main aim is to conduct high quality research projects. Completed research projects go on to provide new treatments and more support for our children and can change clinical practice worldwide. These days, funding for grants is limited and extremely competitive. You can assist by volunteering time and services, participating in our fundraising and public awareness events, donating or raising funds for specific projects. Please contact the Centre for Hormone Research on 03 9936 6547 to make a donation.

Education

The Centre for Hormone Research also supports and fosters Masters students, PhD candidates, research student placements, post-doctoral positions and fellowships. Supervisors are experienced and highly trained at guiding candidates through their journeys and The Centre for Hormone Research follows strict milestones set by Murdoch Children's Research Institute to ensure all candidates are on the right track and accomplishing the requirements necessary to obtain their degrees. 

Group Leaders: 
Group Members: 
Steven Yau
Role: 
PhD Candidate
Dr Brooke Harcourt
Role: 
Post Doctorate Researcher
Dr Betty Messazos
Role: 
Clinical Research Fellow
Dr Michele O'Connell
Role: 
Paediatric Endocrinologist
Dr Mary White
Role: 
Clinical Research Fellow
Myles Clarkson Fletcher
Role: 
Research Nurse
A/Prof Elisabeth Northam
Role: 
Research Neuropsychologist
Rebecca Gebert
Role: 
Diabetes Nurse Educator
Dr Heather Gilbertson
Role: 
Diabetes Nurse Educator
Amy Brown
Role: 
Research Assistant
Dr Jeff Kao
Role: 
Clinical Research Fellow
Dr Kriti Joshi
Role: 
Clinical Research Fellow
Erin Alexander
Role: 
Weight Management Nurse
Dr Cindy Ho
Role: 
Clinical Research Fellow
Dr Angelina Lim
Role: 
Research Pharmacist
Janne Pitkin
Role: 
Research Nurse

GROWTH

Growth Factors and Cancer
Principal investigators: Prof George Werther and Dr Vincenzo Russo
This project is exploring the role of components of the insulin-like growth factor (IGF) system in the development and progression of cancers, in particular, a protein highly-expressed in aggressive cancers, IGF binding protein-2 (IGFBP-2). The centre’s researchers have shown that this protein plays a key role in growth and spread of a range of cancers in both children and adults and they are now trying to find ways to blunt  the effect of this protein, potentially leading to new cancer therapies.

OBESITY

Investigating the role of IGFBP-2 in obesity and Type 2 diabetes
Principal investigator: A/Prof Matthew Sabin
This research project aims to improve our understanding of the relationship between a key growth-regulating protein, IGFBP-2, and obesity and cardiometabolic disease. Understanding the way in which obesity affects IGFBP-2 levels, and the effect that this has on peripheral metabolism, may offer opportunities for new drug development.

Investigating the flexibility of weight regulation in early life
Principal investigator: A/Prof Matthew Sabin
Obese adults who manage to lose weight often gain weight again over several years, as the body vigorously defends against weight loss. Whether this phenomenon also occurs in young children is poorly understood. Investigating how young obese children differ in their response to weight change, when compared with obese adults, will allow the researchers to develop new strategies aimed at long-term success in paediatric weight management programs.

Investigating how micro- and macro-nutrients impact on health outcomes in paediatric obesity
Principal investigator: A/Prof Matthew Sabin
This project aims to improve our understanding of how dietary factors influence the progression to the development of comorbidities like insulin resistance and high blood pressure in childhood obesity.

Investigating the role of genetics and epigenetics in the development of co-morbidities in paediatric obesity
Principal investigator: A/Prof Matthew Sabin
This project aims to improve our understanding of how genetic traits, and the process by which these traits are switched on or off (epigenetic regulation), impacts on the likelihood of whether an obese child develops weight-related health problems or stays metabolically healthy over time.

DIABETES

Adolescent type 1 diabetes cardio-renal intervention trial (AdDIT)
Principal investigator: Prof Fergus Cameron
This study is investigating whether the use of Angiotensin Converting Enzyme Inhibitors (ACEI), HMG-CoA Reductase inhibitors (statins), or a combination of both, will reduce the risk of adolescents with Type 1 Diabetes developing heart and kidney disease, compared to placebo. Over 300 participants, identified as being at high risk, have been recruited in this double-blind, four-year study across the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

A randomised controlled trial comparing the impact of continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion therapy and multiple daily injection regimes upon indices of behaviour, cognition and glycaemia in children and adolescents with Type 1 diabetes
Principal investigator: Prof Fergus Cameron
A previous pilot study showed some improvements in behaviour and mood and some markers of brain function six to eight weeks after starting insulin pump therapy. In this study, researchers want to compare what happens to behaviour, mood and brain function in a group of young people who change from using multiple daily injections to using insulin pump therapy with a group who continue to use multiple daily injections.

Predictive Low-Glucose Suspend Study: Stage 1 (In-Clinic Studies)
Principal investigator: Prof Fergus Cameron
The Predictive Low Glucose Management System (PLGM) consists of an approved Medtronic VEO pump, subcutaneous glucose monitoring system and the predictive algorithm which communicates with the insulin pump via a translator.  In this study an episode of mild hypoglycaemia is induced by a bolus of subcutaneous insulin. The aims of this study are to determine whether the automated PLGM system prevents hypoglycaemia from occurring compared to no PLGM intervention.  The PLGM system is a potential precursor step to "closed loop" insulin delivery that will allow near normal glucose control with minimal input from patients. 

The Impact of hypoglycaemia and hyperglycaemia on brain function
Principal Investigator: Dr Michele O’Connell
This project aims to use MRI to study a group of adolescents who are performing a memory task while their blood glucose levels are in the normal range, and when they have been artificially raised or lowered.  This will allow us to study what is happening to the nerve cells in the brain when blood glucose levels are abnormal and what effect this has on memory.  We will then compare these findings with those of children of similar age who do not have diabetes.

REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH

The Hormone Study project
Principal Investigator: Prof Margaret Zacharin
This study is designed to establish the normal blood and urine levels of sex hormones in preterm babies under 35 weeks by studying 300 preterm babies from three sites over several weeks of testing. This study will provide a reference range of testosterone and other hormones in preterm infants and will assist in the understanding of these hormones, and how babies process them.

Testicular tissue harvest for boys with cancer
Principal investigator: Prof Margaret Zacharin
One in 700 adults are survivors of childhood cancer. Chemotherapy, radiation and some surgeries affect the reproductive activity of the testes in the future, leading to reduced or absent sperm production. Successful storage of mature sperm has been available for years resulting in thousands of healthy pregnancies. However, boys do not produce sperm until they go through puberty. This project will investigate assisting preservation of fertility in pre-pubertal boys who suffer from cancer. All pre-pubertal boys who are about to start chemotherapy in the hospital for solid tumour cancers will be offered testicular tissue harvest. There is no age limit. A testis biopsy will be taken for consenting participants and stored for up to 15 to 20 years (a time shown to be successful in mice). The testicular tissue will be available for sperm generation when the participant wishes to reproduce. This will give back the fundamental right to cancer survivors to have children.

BONE HEALTH

Zoledronic acid in boys with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
Principal investigator: Prof Margaret Zacharin
Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a progressive and immobilising condition that affects 1 in 3,500 boys. These boys are on chronic steroid doses to improve their condition but these steroids result in fractures, pain and disability, with as many as 20 to 50 per cent of boys who are mobile prior to the fracture losing their ability to walk after the event. This is a randomised controlled trial to evaluate whether giving five doses of Zoledronic acid to these boys three to six monthly can reduce pain, decrease risk of a fracture and keep them out of a wheelchair for longer. The results of this trial will have far reaching consequences for these boys and would inform better clinical practice worldwide.  

Zoledronic acid in children with Perthes disease
Principal investigator: Prof Margaret Zacharin
Perthes disease occurs following loss of blood supply to the hip which results in flattening of the normally round femoral head (bone at the hip joint) and potentially collapse of the hip. This results in painful arthritis with 40 per cent of affected patients requiring a hip replacement later in life. This is a randomised controlled trial to see whether zoledronic acid prevents the flattening of femoral head as there is no surgical option available to prevent collapse. If this intervention proves effective, this therapy will significantly improve the short and long-term health of children who develop this potentially devastating disorder.

The effects of antiepileptic drugs on bone health
Principal investigator: Dr Peter Simm
This collaborative study with the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) aims to explore the effects of antiepileptic drugs on skeletal development. Building on existing research at RMH, researchers are looking at a number of measures of bone health and muscle development in this patient group, using twins and siblings as controls.

Funding: 

At the Centre for Hormone Research, our main aim is to conduct high quality research projects which are conducted well and to completion. Completed research projects go on to provide new treatments and more support for our children and can change clinical practice worldwide. These days, funding for grants is limited and extremely competitive.

You can assist by volunteering time and services, participating in our fundraising and public awareness events, donating or raising funds for specific projects.

No donation is too great or small, please contact Centre for Hormone Research on 03 99366547 to make a donation..

Our current sponsors and funding sources are:

The work of the Centre is supported by its own board that raises money through various fundraising events. The board comprises of the following members:

Bryce Cameron, Vince Comito, Abdulla Nasser, Katie Finney, Philippa Finney, Fiona Ballaytne, Lyn Amy, Matt Hannan, Jacqueline Pascarl, Raoul Salter and Angelina Lim

Collaborations: 
  • Melbourne IVF
  • Mercy Hospital for Women, Heidelberg
  • Metronics
  • Monash Medical Centre, Clayton
  • Princess Margaret Hospital, Perth
  • Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne
  • The Kaleidoscope Institute, Newcastle
  • The Mater Hospital, Brisbane
  • The Sydney Children’s Hospital Network
  • The Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, Sydney
  • The Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Adelaide