Science

Trauma research among NHMRC best

Richard Bryant
Wednesday, 16 February, 2011
Bob Beale

Trailblazing UNSW research into understanding, treating and preventing the traumas people can experience after serious accidents and natural disasters has been singled out for acclaim by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

In its new publication 10 of the Best Research Projects 2010, the NHMRC has recognised the success of Professor Richard Bryant and his team in the UNSW School of Psychology in tackling the problem post-traumatic stress.

The booklet profiles the work done by some of Australia's leading researchers to improve public health.

Launching the booklet last week, the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, spoke of a growing recognition that health and medical research is a building block to better health, allowing for earlier diagnosis and better treatment of serious conditions that can be the difference between a healthy, happy life and one filled with disability and limitations.

“Professor Bryant and his team monitored more than 1000 people post-trauma and found that around 25% had a new mental health condition a year later," Mr Butler said.

“His research will pave the way to identify the risk factors and implement early intervention strategies to avert long term problems with the goal of improving treatment for all Australians that experience trauma.

“This is particularly relevant given the immense stresses that people afflicted by the recent floods, cyclone and bushfires have experienced.

“I congratulate the researchers highlighted in the 10 of the Best and encourage them, as well as the next generation of researchers, to continue their important work and keep Australia on the cutting edge of health and medical research. The work they do is changing our system and changing lives."

Professor Bryant is Scientia Professor of Psychology and the Director of the Traumatic Stress Clinic, which operates out of UNSW and Westmead Hospital and provides cutting-edge, evidence-based treatments and undertakes world-class research for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complicated grief.

He has won many awards and in 2009 was the recipient of a prestigious Australian Laureate Fellowship, one of only 15 such awards made by Australia's peak research funding agency, the Australian Research Council.

Media contact: Bob Beale 0411 705 435 bbeale@unsw.edu.au

The other people and projects honoured were:

Professor Perry Bartlett, Queensland Brain Institute, University of Queensland
This research examined the ways that the brain's innate ability to remodel itself through the production of new nerve cells, and the formation of new connections (synapses) between these cells, is important to brain function and to repair the damage caused by stroke and dementia.

Professor Suzanne Garland, The Royal Women’s Hospital, University of Melbourne
The researcher incorporated a large-scale study of women in remote, rural and urban Australia to determine the frequency of various strains of HPV (human papillomavirus) and other work contributing to the development of the HPV vaccine.

Associate Professor Martin Lackmann, Monash University
An antibody has been developed that binds to the new tumour blood vessels, reducing  blood flow and leading to the regression of tumours, in prostate, lung and colon cancer.  These findings are about to be tested in human clinical trials, potentially leading to a new approach to cancer treatment.

Associate Professor Peter Morris, Menzies School of Health Research, NT
780 Indigenous children were involved in a trial that showed that applying fluoride directly to their teeth, along with other preventative health measures, reduced cavities by 36% over routine dental treatment alone.

Associate Professor Kevin Pfleger, Centre for Medical Research, University of WA
This research focuses on a group of proteins (G protein coupled receptors) that regulate how cells respond to hormones and neurotransmitters, with the goal of improving the bodies’ response to drugs, increasing effectiveness and reducing side effects

Professor Susan Prescott, School of Paediatric and Child Health, University of WA
The immune system is responsible for ongoing health problems such as food allergies and asthma. Working with expectant mothers and babies, this research has identified dietary and environmental factors that affect the development of the child’s immune system and their future health.

Professor Chris Semsarian, Centenary Institute, University of Sydney
Research into the most common cardiovascular genetic disorder, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy has identified new genes and studied how these gene faults lead to disease. This has led to new strategies to improve diagnosis and prevent sudden death in young patients with cardiomyopathy.

Professor Melanie Wakefield, Cancer Council of Victoria
This research into the different measures designed to reduce smoking rates found
(a) increases in tobacco taxes and greater exposure to televised mass media campaigns reduced Australian adult smoking prevalence; (b) increases in tobacco taxes reduced smoking prevalence to a greater extent among those on lower incomes compared with those on higher incomes,

Dr Anthony White, University of Melbourne
This research investigated the use of metal binding agents to modify neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and motor neuron disease. The findings have the potential to enable further development of metal complexes as treatment of the neurodegenerative disorders that affect an increasing number of ageing Australians.