Garvan Breakthrough April 2018

From the CEO

New research


This year at Garvan we’ve taken exciting steps towards making the invisible visible. This might sound like something out of science fiction, but the work our researchers have been producing around data visualisation is truly bringing the future forward.

Muscles talk Even though it’s a known ‘fact’ that exercise is good for your whole body, it’s not fully understood why in scientific terms. Research by Garvan’s Diabetes and Metabolism Division has uncovered a method of communication between muscles and the rest of the body. Division head Professor Mark Febbraio co‑led the study with Dr Martin Whitham (Group Leader, Myokine Biology, Diabetes and Metabolism Division). They identified thousands of proteins that are released in tiny packages, called vesicles, in our bloodstream. “It makes a lot of sense that many of these exercise-liberated vesicles may be emanating from muscle and heading to the liver,” says Professor Febbraio, “because we know that liver function is vastly improved by regular exercise.” Making immune system memories As well as defending our bodies at the moment of infection, our immune system gives us long-term protection against the same invader – so we usually catch a given disease only once. New research from Professor Rob Brink and colleagues has now solved a key piece of the puzzle of how the immune system ‘remembers’ past infection. The researchers devised a new way to track cells called memory B cells – which attack disease that the body has tackled before. They observed, for the first time, the early development of memory B cells in the germinal centre – “a kind of training camp where B cells go to learn their craft,” as Professor Brink puts it. This provides evidence that memory B cells give us protection against versions of a disease – such as flu strains that change year on year. The findings could aid the rapid development of new vaccines against emerging diseases. A map of every cell When the human genome was first sequenced, it led to the discovery of more than 1,900 disease genes. This generation’s similarly ambitious goal – the Human Cell Atlas – will likely bring a new wave of revelations. The initiative aims to map each of the 37.2 trillion cells in the human body. The monumental endeavour will require contribution from across the international scientific community. Scientists from 14 of Australia’s top biomedical institutions, including Garvan, have joined forces as part of a coordinated national approach. While it has only just commenced, the Human Cell Atlas holds exciting potential for health discoveries and could help to create a map for predicting disease. GENOMICS AND EPIGENETICS Read the full story at IMMUNOLOGY Watch a video about this at

Andrew Giles, Chief Executive Officer, Garvan Research Foundation

Researchers are using the incredible amount of data gathered from genome sequencing in ways that will allow us to find trends and make inferences. This will eventually lead to more knowledge about the diseases we study at Garvan. You can read more about these projects on data visualisation on pages 6 to 7. These projects are helping to change the landscape of the medical and scientific community. They would not be possible without supporters like you, so thank you for the part you are playing in breakthrough research. We continue to embrace change with a new Chairman of the Board of the Foundation, Russell Scrimshaw. He brings a wealth of knowledge from the business world as well as three years as an Institute board member. Read about his appointment on page 11. And in late-breaking news, after more than six years as Executive Director, Professor John Mattick will leave the Institute in June to take up the prestigious appointment of inaugural Chief Executive Officer of Genomics England. Under his leadership, Garvan has forged a reputation for placing human genomic information at the centre of research. John’s leadership will be missed, but we have an outstanding succession in place. Garvan’s strength is its outstanding people, including our supporters in the community who help to continue our vision to achieve the ultimate goal of prevention, treatment or cure of major diseases. Do you have a friend who loves to read your copy of Breakthrough ? Let them know they can get it sent to them by calling Supporter Services on 1300 73 66 77.

Cover image by Mark Arrebola. Representation of DNA and proteins within the nucleus of a cell. This image is captured from a Virtual Reality experience created as a collaborative project with Garvan’s Dr Kate Patterson and the 3D Visualisation and Aesthetic Laboratory at UNSW Art and Design.

Read the full story at

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