The Australian Centre for Blood Diseases
Approximately 80 per cent of Australians will suffer from a blood-related disease at some stage of their lives and over 75 per cent of people will require a blood transfusion.
The ‘blood facts’:
- The development of blood clots in vital organs, such as the heart and brain, is responsible for the majority of heart attacks and strokes.
- Blood clots frequently cause sudden death when they lodge in the lungs (pulmonary emboli) after surgery or long airplane flights (the latter being popularly known as DVT).
- Iron deficiency anaemia affects one in ten women.
- Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) affects over 50,000 Australians resulting in over 50,000 hospitalisations per year, and results in substantial numbers of limb amputations and a disproportionate number of deaths in men.
- Every year, over 20,000 Australians are diagnosed with blood cancers including leukaemias and lymphomas.
Collectively blood-related diseases are responsible for significant morbidity, loss of productivity and mortality in our society.
For many Australians, diseases of the blood such as heart attack, stroke and cancer, remain a distant concern. Yet for those Australians diagnosed with such conditions, learning to cope with a blood disorder is a challenging and frightening reality. For the family, friends and care-givers who support these individuals, the challenge is equally felt, in an effort to do all that is possible in order to eliminate the pain and suffering of their loved ones.
The Solution – The ACBD
The Australian Centre for Blood Disease (ACBD), a Monash University initiative, was established in the late 1990’s, with the ultimate objective of being a leading national and international blood diseases centre with recognised research, treatment and educational programs for blood diseases. The ACBD research and medical educational services are on a par with the worlds leading blood centers, and provides a seamless integration of acute health care, research and educational activities.
The Australian Centre for Blood Diseases currently provides haematology services to over 2,000,000 Melbournians across multiple Hospital sites. Co-located with the Alfred Hospital, prominent medical research institutes and Monash University’s medical research programs, the Centre is organised into three integrated divisions:
- Clinical and Diagnostic Haematology/Oncology
- Members of the Centre are high level experts in many specialized areas of haematology, including haemostasis and thrombosis, haemophilia. Blood cancers and bone marrow transplantation
- Clinical and Basic Research Programs
- The basic research conducted at the Centre is at the cutting edge of clinical medicine.
- Teaching and Education
- The Centre hosts dynamic postgraduate PhD and honours programs and fosters undergraduate science talent.
- Clinical training in haematology is provided to undergraduate students and specialist doctors in training.
Executive Director of the ACBD, Professor Hatem Salem, is a haematologist ‘by trade’ with a primary interest in the field of thrombosis. Professor Salem is also Director of Haematology at The Alfred Hospital, Co-Head of Central and Eastern Clinical School (Monash University – The Alfred Campus) and Executive Director of the Australasian Society of Haemostasis and Thrombosis. He has published in excess of 140 peer reviewed articles in International journals, received many awards and grants throughout his career, and has supervised the training of many PhD graduates. In the year 2005, his vision and ability to develop leading clinical and research programs was recognised by the Victorian Government’s Public Healthcare Award, where he was the recipient of the Health Minister’s Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement.
Co-founder of the ACBD, Professor Shaun Jackson, is recognised both nationally and internationally for his research in the field of blood clotting. With over 75 internationally peer reviewed publications, Professor Jackson receives regular invitations to speak at national and international forums, has successfully mentored over 20 postgraduate students, and secured over $6 million in grant funding.
Professor Jackson wears many hats, including Research Director of the ACBD, NHMRC Principal Research Fellow and head of the Thrombosis Research Unit at the ACBD, Honorary Professor at the Baker Heart Research Institute, and more recently, Associate Professor at the prestigious Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. Professor Jackson’s experience extends far beyond basic research, with a proven track record in clinical medicine, biotechnology and commercialisation. His research has been recognised on many occasions through numerous awards, including the inaugural Premier’s Award for Excellence in Medical Research, a Tall Poppy award from the Australian Institute of Political Science, and the AMGEN Award.
Research Update – Towards Meeting our Objectives
Important milestones resulting from the Centre’s world leading basic research and education programs have increased the understanding of the initiation of blood clotting and how blood clots shrink and dissolve. It also manages a large number of vital clinical research trials for new drugs and therapies in relation to blood disorders.
Heart attack and stroke remain leading causes of death and disability in the western world. Researchers at the ACBD are at the forefront of exciting new research to tackle these long standing heath problems:
- Associate Professor Robert Medcalf and his research team at the ACBD have identified a potent clot-busting substance, Desmodus rotundus salivary plasminogen activator (DSPA) or desmoteplase, originally extracted from the saliva of vampire bats. This vampire bat saliva-derived clot buster targets and destroys fibrin, the structural scaffold of blood clots. DSPA has the potential to be used up to three times longer than the current stroke treatment window – without increasing the risk for additional brain damage.
- Professor Shaun Jackson and his research team identified the mechanisms that promote the formation of pathological blood clots (clots leading to heart attack and stroke) and how these differ from the mechanisms involved in normal blood clotting. They discovered and developed a new class of anti-clotting drugs that appear to be more effective than aspirin at preventing disease-causing blood clots, with fewer side effects.
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