GOHaD’s research interests are focused on the genetic and environmental contributions to a variety of disease areas, in particular common complex human diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, asthma, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and cancers. These diseases have a substantial genetic involvement that has proven difficult to fully understand. Advances in statistical genetics, super-computing and high-throughput ‘omics’ technologies make this an unprecedented time for rapid disease gene discovery that will pave the way for development of new treatments and strategies to improve human health.
Cancer risk factors
Cancer is one of the major causes of mortality globally, and every form of cancer has a different cause and treatment. Our research aims to identify genetic and environmental factors that contribute to an individual’s risk of developing cancer. Currently, our research focusses on various types of cancer, risk factors and screening tools:
- Genetic variants and mammographic density as a risk factor for breast cancer
- Melanoma through the Western Australian Melanoma Health Study
- Mesothelioma through our collaboration with the Genetic Understanding of Asbestos Related Disease study
- Methods for stratified screening for colorectal cancer
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the biggest cause of mortality in Australia. CVD describes a collection of diseases of the heart and blood vessels, including heart attack and stroke. The risk of developing these diseases is affected by our diet and lifestyle and also by the genetic makeup that we inherit. Our work aims to identify the specific heritable genetic differences between individuals that put us at greater risk of cardiovascular disease:
- The Busselton Family Heart Study and CVD, in collaboration with the Texas Biomedical Research Institute and the Busselton Population Medical Research Institute.
Congenital heart defects
Congenital heart defects (CHDs) are the most common type of birth defect worldwide, with about 1% of children born with one or more CHDs each year. Our research focusses on investigating genetic factors that might influence the occurrence of CHDs.
Food allergy (FA) is a common allergic disease in children, with a prevalence as high as 10% in infants under the age of 12 months. Our research focusses on investigating genetic factors that might influence allergy response.
Neuropsychiatric disorders are those of affect, cognition, and behaviour resulting from the interaction of factors including genetic, neurobiological and cultural factors, and life experiences. Our current collaborations investigate:
- Schizophrenia through our collaboration with the Western Australian Familial Study of Schizophrenia
- Autism spectrum disorder through our collaboration with the Raine Study and Andrew Whitehouse at Telethon Kids Institute
- Preeclampsia through our collaboration with Shaun Brennecke at The Royal Women’s Hospital, Matthew Johnson and John Blangero at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute, Hannele Laivuori at the University of Helsinki, Rigmor Austgulen, Ann-Charlotte Iversen and Mari Loset at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and Line Bjorge, and Liv-Cecille V. Thomsen at Haukeland University Hospital in Norway, funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council
- Genetics of pre-term birth through our collaboration with Associate Professor Craig Pennell
Asthma and other allergic conditions collectively affect 1 in 5 Australians at a cost of billions of dollars each year to health services. Asthma and allergy have a significant hereditary component, but only some individuals with a genetic predisposition develop allergic conditions in a certain environment, or when exposed to a set of risk factors. Understanding the interaction between genes, environment and relevant epigenetic modifications in an individual is essential to understanding disease prevalence and aetiology.
- Allergy and asthma in immigrant populations
Disturbed sleep is common in the Australian community, yet the majority of sleep disorders causing sleep disturbance are undiagnosed, limiting our understanding of the prevalence of the disorder. The three most common variants of sleep disorders are obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), insomnia and restless legs syndrome/periodic leg movement syndrome (RLS/PLMS). Although research suggests there are hereditary predispositions to sleep disorders, the genetic basis of predisposition and how this influences phenotypic characteristics associated with disorders is unknown.
- Sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnoea through our collaboration with the Western Australian Sleep Health Study
The Centre welcomes collaborations on any of these interests as well as new projects.
Contact the Director, Professor Eric Moses, for more information.