Drug of­fers sight hope

Tassie re­search that could change lives

Sunday Tasmanian - - News - ANNE MATHER

A PAS­SION for chem­istry has re­sulted in a young Tas­ma­nian sci­en­tist de­vel­op­ing a ground­break­ing ther­a­peu­tic drug that could im­prove the lives of peo­ple with a range of dis­eases.

Uni­ver­sity of Tas­ma­nia PhD grad­u­ate Krys­tel Wool­ley is now in dis­cus­sions with a Swiss phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany about li­cens­ing the dis­cov­ery.

Dr Wool­ley, among hun­dreds of UTAS stu­dents to grad­u­ate at the week­end, said she had al­ways loved science and wanted to find a prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tion for it.

“My work was never about me just do­ing re­search for the sake of it, but look­ing at how my re­search could help peo­ple’s lives,” she said.

“I think this treat­ment could re­ally help a large group of peo­ple.”

Dr Wool­ley has de­vel­oped new ther­a­peu­tic drugs for the treat­ment of ge­netic dis­or­ders and di­a­betes-in­duced blind­ness.

She said her re­search in­di­cated that the new ther­a­pies worked faster than the cur­rent drugs on the mar­ket.

“Ours re­quires a lower dosage and has faster re­sults.”

The dis­cov­ery fol­lows a suc­cess­ful col­lab­o­ra­tive project be­tween Chem­istry and Phar­macy at UTAS, with about five PhD stu­dents still un­der­tak­ing re­search into the new ther­apy.

The new ther­a­pies ad­dress mi­to­chon­drial dys­func­tion, which is be­lieved to be the root cause of many dis­eases — in­clud­ing can­cer, di­a­betes, au­toim­mune dis­eases, glau­coma and Alzheimer’s.

The newly de­vel­oped treat­ment for mi­to­chon­drial dys- func­tion has looked at how it might im­prove di­a­betes-in­duced blind­ness.

“We stud­ied the drug in blind­ness be­cause the cells in your eyes are the hard­est to re­gen­er­ate or re­store,” Dr Wool­ley said.

“We found it does re­gen­er­ate the en­ergy in the cells. In our an­i­mal mod­els, they had re­stored sight.”

The Swiss phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany was in­ter­ested in how the ther­apy could im­prove sight, but Dr Wool­ley said there could be much broader ben­e­fits for the drugs.

She said it was still many years be­fore the drug could be mar­keted, and she was in talks with the com­pany about col­lab­o­rat­ing with the on­go­ing re­search.

She said the dis­cov­ery could have a far-reach­ing im­pact on many ge­netic and en­vi­ron­ment-in­duced dis­or­ders.

Dr Wool­ley, who grew up in the Huon Val­ley and went to Huonville High, en­cour­aged young Tas­ma­ni­ans to hold fast to am­bi­tious dreams.

“Most of my friends got lo­cal jobs when they fin­ished school, and I re­mem­ber at the time it seemed like they were earn­ing money and get­ting ahead in life,” she said.

But she said the sac­ri­fice and hard work had paid off.

“It was hard at the time, but I would do it all over again be­cause my study has re­sulted in this PhD and given me a ca­reer.”

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