Innaloo researcher gets grant to study genetics of children with stunted growth

Research recipients Dr Dimitar Azmanov, associate professors Tobias Strunk and Wai Lim.
Research recipients Dr Dimitar Azmanov, associate professors Tobias Strunk and Wai Lim.

COULD advanced genetic testing improve the healthcare management of children with stunted growth?

PathWest genetic pathologist Dimitar Azmanov is searching for the answer.

The Innaloo resident is one of three WA Health researchers to receive a Department of Health/Raine Foundation Clinician Research Fellowship in the latest round of the program announced last week.

Dr Azmanov will use his fellowship to “strengthen and streamline” the genetic investigation of children with short stature who have been treated with growth hormone therapy.

As not all children respond to growth hormone, Dr Azmanov is hopeful improved genetic testing will identify those who will benefit from treatment before growth hormone injections are started.

Some children need higher doses of growth hormone.

“Importantly, the additional testing will allow these children to be treated adequately right from the beginning with a taller final height outcome,” he said.

Another important benefit may be the early detection of the 20 per cent of cases who do not respond to growth hormone.

“For these children, it currently takes up to two years of growth hormone injections before it becomes clear the therapy is not working,” Dr Azmanov said.

“With growth hormone therapy costing at least $14,000 a year per child, this could yield significant cost savings to the health system.”

The other two researchers to receive a Raine Foundation Fellowship are Associate Professor Wai Lim, consultant nephrologist at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, who is working on improving health outcomes of kidney transplant recipients, and Associate Professor Tobias Strunk, consultant neonatologist at King Edward Memorial Hospital. The latter is studying the use of Pentoxifylline to protect the preterm brain.

Now in its fifth year, the Clinician Research Fellowship program is an initiative of the Department of Health in conjunction with the Raine Medical Research Foundation.

The program provides funding for up to three years and can be up to $150,000 a year, depending on the extent of the research proposal and the applicant’s salary.

The clinicians maintain some of their clinical duties during their fellowship.