18 December 2009

The University of Queensland yesterday received more than $360,000 in Government funding to further strengthen research linkages with China.

UQ's largest grant, worth $167,500, went to Professor Chen Chen from the School of Biomedical Sciences, who will investigate whether the growth hormone gherlin may be an effective treatment for diabetes-related heart disease.

Professor Chen said, in previous studies, patients with type 1 and type 2 diabtes had been found to have lower levels of ghrelin - a hormone found in the lining of the human stomach and pancreas that stimulates hunger.

"Diabetic patients have a very high incidence of development of cardiovascular disease and heart failure,"Professor Chen said.

"To date, there is no specific therapeutic strategy for treatment of diabetes-related heart disease.

"The most important and significant contribution of this project is that it will provide experimental evidence for the therapeutic use of gherlin and synthetic small molecular analogues for prevention and treatment of diabetes-related heart diseases, thereby reducing suffering and death caused by diabetes."

Professor Chen will work in collaboration with Professor Wei-jin Zang at Xi'an Jiaotong University.

Increasing the yield of canola - a crop which earns Australia $500 million per year in exports - is the aim of Dr Jacqueline Batley, who secured a $49,000 grant.

"We're trying to identify the genes responsible for yield in canola," Dr Batley said.

"Once we've found the genes responsible, we'll be able to pass that information onto breeders who can hopefully produce better varieties at a faster rate, which could have significant economic advantages.

"These genes could also be responsible for yield in other crops within the Brassica family, which includes cabbage, broccoli, bok choy and mustard."

Dr Batley will collaborate with Professor Jinling Meng, of the Huazhong Agricultural

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Max Lu congratulated the grant recipients, and said international collaboration was often key to achieving the best research outcomes.

"Working with their counterparts at Chinese institutions, UQ researchers will have an opportunity to advance scientific research in the areas of agriculture, biotechnology and materials science," Professor Lu said.

"These grants will enable UQ to enhance and build upon already thriving research linkages with China."

The grants are provided from the Australia-China Special Fund for Scientific and Technological Cooperation, which is part of the International Science Linkages program.

Participating Australian and Chinese research institutions, Australian industry and the Chinese Government will also contribute funds to the projects.

UQ secured four of the 17 research grants, worth a total of $1.5 million.

Other UQ projects included:

Associate Professor David Edwards, from the School of Land, Crop and Food Sciences, received $96,500 to work with the on a project titled Sequencing the Brassica C genome. This research will provide a foundation resource for vegetable crop improvement and contribute to a public whole genome resource for canola. Dr Edwards' partner institution is the Institute of Vegetables and Flowers, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis’s Professor John Drennan and Professor Jin Zou, along with Fudan University’s Professor Chengzhong Michael Yu (who is joining the Australian Institute for Bionengineering and Nanotechnology in 2010) received $49,800 to investigate synthesis, characterisation and applications of novel porous materials with complicated structures.

Media: Penny Robinson at UQ Communications (07 3365 9723, penny.robinson@uq.edu.au)