Two ABI projects win Marsden funding

03 November 2017

Developing a computer model to study how diabetes can lead to heart failure is one of two Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI) research projects that were successful in the Royal Society’s 2017 Marsden Funding announced today.

ABI was awarded a total of $1,250,000 for two of the four projects it applied for.

Dr Kenneth Tran, with Associate Professor Andrew Taberner from ABI and Professor Edmund Crampin from the University of Melbourne, were awarded a $300,000 Fast Start grant to help them develop new therapeutic strategies for diabetic patients. Their project is summarised as follows:

“The heart is a complex machine. It is governed by a delicate balance of many interacting cellular processes. In disease, this balance is disturbed. This is especially relevant in diabetic heart disease, where the progression to failure is associated with changes in electrical activity, a decline in energy supply and a reduced ability of the heart to pump. Given all these changes, uncovering the mechanisms that drive the diabetic heart to fail remains an open challenge.

“To uncover the mechanisms that link all these elements of failure in diabetic heart disease, we propose to use an interdisciplinary approach, integrating cell and tissue level experimentation, innovative bioinstrumentation and computational modelling.

“We will undertake a comprehensive series of experiments to characterise the effects of diabetes during the development of heart failure. With these data, we will build a novel computational model of diabetic cell function. We will use the model to unravel the complex interactions responsible for diabetic heart failure and simulate potential therapeutic treatments to identify critical time points at which an intervention could improve heart function or prevent the development of diabetic heart failure altogether.

“With diabetes affecting six percent of our population, this research has the potential to lead to better health outcomes and improved well-being of New Zealanders.”

Associate Professor Leo Cheng was awarded $950,000 for a project called “An Atlas of the Gut: A Framework for Integrating Structure to Function”.

“The gut is constantly on the move!” says Leo. “It moves to break-down and mix ingested food, helping to absorb nutrients and eliminate waste. A bioelectrical activity generated by inter-connected networks of pacemaker cells in turn powers the movements of the gut.

“This proposal seeks to develop an experimental-theoretical framework that will provide new insights into the relationship between gut tissue structure, bioelectrical activity and resultant movements. A series of unique sensors and imaging techniques will be developed and applied. These novel structural-functional data will be integrated using mathematical modelling and quantitative analysis techniques to produce an atlas of gut bioelectrical functions.”

Portrait of Dr Kenneth Tran.
Dr Kenneth Tran
Portrait of Associate Professor Leo Cheng
Associate Professor Leo Cheng