UNSW to analyse DNA samples from 15,000 aspirin trial patients

Friday, 09 November, 2018

UNSW to analyse DNA samples from 15,000 aspirin trial patients

Monash University is expanding its ASPREE trial by conducting detailed research into genetic factors contributing to good health or disease in the elderly.

The Australian-led project involves genetic analysis of DNA samples from 15,000 ASPREE trial participants, whose health was comprehensively tracked for up to seven years, and follows publication of primary ASPREE study results in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr Paul Lacaze, Head of Public Health Genomics, Monash University, said the project could help identify genetic markers associated with a positive or negative response to therapies.

“It is possible that underlying genetic factors may explain why some people respond to drug therapies and others do not. If we can discover and understand these factors more clearly, it may help guide drug use in the future, maximising the benefits and minimising the risks for older people.”

UNSW Sydney scientists will analyse DNA samples from Monash’s trial. Dr Helen Speirs, Deputy Director of the UNSW Ramaciotti Centre for Genomics, said this was the largest study of human patients that the centre had ever done, and one of the largest genetic screens of this type done in Australia.

The project uses genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) analysis, using the new Thermo Fisher Axiom Precision Medicine Diversity Array at the UNSW Ramaciotti Centre for Genomics.

Dr Helen Speirs, Deputy Director of the centre, said, “We are excited to bring our expertise in high-throughput genotyping to this nationally important project.”

This partnership between Monash University, Bioplatforms Australia and UNSW Sydney will complement extensive clinical and health information collected in the ASPREE trial and associated studies, creating a powerful resource for biomedical research.

“ASPREE is a significant international collaboration that we are extremely excited to see enhanced by Bioplatforms’ genomics capability,” said Andrew Gilbert, General Manager of Bioplatforms Australia.

“This project will enable new research across a broad range of diseases and investigate the use of genetic data towards improved public health outcomes.”

Monash University and Bioplatforms are funding the development of the $1 million genetic data resource, with analysis of this data expected to continue for several years.

Dr Lacaze said the new partnership was an example of leading Australian research groups coming together to generate new genetic research into a range of health problems affecting the elderly, such as cancer, diabetes, dementia and age-related macular degeneration.

“The project will generate much-needed evidence to help inform whether genetic factors may play a role in guiding more effective therapeutic and prevention strategies in years to come, bringing us closer to precision medicine,” Dr Lacaze said.

Image caption: Scientist at work at the UNSW Ramaciotti Centre for Genomics. Image courtesy of UNSW Sydney. 

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