Research Areas

GOHaD’s research is focused on investigating genetic, epigenetic 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.

We welcome collaborations on any of these interests as well as new projects. Contact us for more information.

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:

Cardiovascular disease

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:

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

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

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:

Pregnancy Disorders

Preeclampsia is a serious disorder of pregnancy characterized by new-onset high blood pressure and protein in the urine, appearing typically in the second half of pregnancy. Preeclampsia is common, occurring in 2-7% of all pregnancies and is one of the leading causes of maternal and perinatal morbidity and mortality worldwide. There are no reliable predictive tests, nor effective treatments other than delivery of the baby and the placenta. For this reason, preeclampsia is a major cause of prematurity. Preeclampsia is also associated with other poor health outcomes for both mother and baby, including the development of cardiovascular disease later in life.

Respiratory Diseases

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.

Sleep Disorders

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.