30 Years of MCRI
October 6 2016, 4:28 pm

Murdoch Childrens Research Institute (MCRI) is celebrating 30 years of life-changing discoveries.

Established in 1986 by Professor David Danks, with the generous support of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, MCRI was born from the meeting of two brilliant minds. Prof Danks envisioned an independent genetic research institute dedicated to changing children’s health. Dame Elisabeth, a champion of sick children, had the foresight to support his vision. Together, they established what is now Australia’s largest child health research institute, MCRI.

In its 30 years of existence, the institute’s work has encompassed a broad range of research, from laboratory science to large population studies. Located onsite at the RCH, MCRI embarks on numerous research projects in conjunction with the hospital. Researchers work alongside doctors and nurses to ensure their work improves the lives of our sickest and most vulnerable children across Australia and the world.

Through our support of the hospital, the RCH Foundation funds important research projects that are changing the future of children’s health. Here are two of them.

Finding the genetic cause of kidney disease

Since 2013, the RCH Foundation has supported Dr Cathy Quinlan in her role as an MCRI Honorary Research Fellow. Through her fellowship, Dr Quinlan leads the Kidney Development, Disease and Regeneration Group, which has greatly increased the potential for lab and clinical research within nephrology.

Along with fellow researcher Professor Melissa Little, Dr Quinlan co-leads an exciting new RCH Foundation-funded project, Pilot Renal Genomics and Induced Patient Stem Cell Program (ReGeniPS). This clinical and research program investigates the genetic cause of kidney disease and uses stem cells generated from RCH patients to determine the underlying basis of their disease.

Since the project began, Prof Little made a major discovery when she successfully developed mini-kidneys grown in a dish from stem cells.

“These mini-kidneys are called organoids, take about three weeks to develop and mimic kidney development in the embryonic stage,” said Prof Little. “They appear to respond to toxic drugs, so we can use them to model diseases and potentially use them to screen for drug toxicity, saving patients from being exposed to drugs that could damage their kidneys.”

Developmental Imaging

In 2010, the RCH Foundation made a five year funding commitment to support the employment of two research officers for the Developmental Imaging Group. This funding, generously donated by RCH1000, increased MCRI’s capacity to develop and implement advanced brain imaging and image analysis methods. These methods are supporting research into paediatric neuroscience for RCH patients affected by conditions like epilepsy, stroke and brain tumours.

Four years later, the RCH Foundation funded a new Developmental Imaging project, Translating Cutting Edge Imaging into Routine Clinical Practice. This project supports innovation in MRI analysis to more accurately detect, diagnose and treat childhood illnesses from heart disease to cancer.

“With the support of the RCH Foundation we have been able to assemble a dedicated team of clinical researchers working with clinicians from across the RCH to improve the diagnostic capacity of MRI and clinical outcomes for RCH patients,” said Dr Marc Seal, Leader of the Developmental Imaging group.

Through philanthropy, the RCH Foundation has helped the Developmental Imaging Group grow. The team now scan thousands of children per year and is in the midst of its 175th research project.

During the MCRI’s three decades of discoveries, the RCH Foundation has helped it grow.  By developing research and clinical links that advance care, we’re working together to improve health outcomes for RCH kids and children around the world.

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