MHTP research grant enables collaborative research into the prevention of gestational diabetes

Early career researchers Ms Aya Mousa and Dr Stacey Ellery have won the MHTP Research Week ECR speed networking event, receiving a $10,000 grant to progress their collaborative research idea.

Co-organised by the Hudson Institute and School of Clinical Sciences ECR Committees, the event invited early career researchers from across the precinct to submit a collaborative grant idea.

Aya Mousa (a PhD student/early post-doctoral researcher at MCHRI, SPHPM) and Stacey Ellery (a postdoctoral researcher in The Ritchie Centre) emerged from the event with a novel idea that combines their expertise in pregnancy and metabolic disorders to help women with gestational diabetes.

“Gestational diabetes (GDM) is a common disease developed by 20,000 Australian women during pregnancy each year,” Ms Mousa and Dr Ellery said.

“Not only are women with GDM at higher risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes including pre-eclampsia, and preterm birth, the disease also predisposes both the mother and infant to developing diabetes and cardiovascular diseases later in life.”

Using plasma samples from over 500 pregnant women, stored in clinical biobanks at MCHRI and The Ritchie Centre, the researchers will explore the influence of diet and lifestyle intervention on the development of gestational diabetes and will conduct the first studies to comprehensively assess lipid biomarkers in GDM.

By combining samples from both low- and high-risk pregnancies, they will potentially identify novel metabolic markers (lipids) that could be used to improve risk prediction, prevention, and management of GDM in the future.

Ms Mousa and Dr Ellery said the ECR event was instrumental in forming this new collaboration, as their respective research teams were not previously aware of their joint interests. They said the support of funds pledged by Hudson and SCS also ensured the idea could be made a reality, an opportunity not often afforded to young researchers.

During Research Week, ECRs met for casual one-on-one conversations to find common interests and unearth potential novel research ideas. The committee reviewed EOIs and then, after an initial round of selection, full applications.

Event co-organiser Dr Aimee Dordevic said ECRs at MHTP are spread across many different centres and departments, and the event provided important opportunities for face-to-face meetings.

“It was fantastic to see how well the event was able to facilitate collaborations between researchers that may not have otherwise come to life. We look forward to seeing the outcomes of the projects, from Aya and Stacey, and all of the other grant applicants,” Dr Aimee Dordevic said.

“Importantly, we would like to thank Hudson and SCS for supporting this event. We plan to run the event again in 2018 so that we can continue to nurture collaborations between ECRs and foster world-class research outcomes.”

About the winners:
Ms Aya Mousa recently completed her PhD at the Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation (MCHRI). She has published extensively in diabetes, nutrition and metabolism, developing expertise across the research continuum (mechanistic, epidemiological, clinical, and translational research).

Dr Stacey Ellery is based at The Ritchie Centre, Hudson Institute. She has published extensively in the field of metabolic regulation during pregnancy and the use of dietary interventions to improve pregnancy outcomes.