12 October 2006

The genetics behind intersex babies, and improved prediction of skin cancer risk are two of the projects from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) that will receive funding from the latest round of Australian Research Council grants.

The IMB, at The University of Queensland, will receive $6.34 million in total, spread over 11 projects.

Professor Peter Koopman will receive over $1.5 million to study the genetics and development of intersex babies, who are born with characteristics of both sexes.

“Sex reversal and intersex syndromes are among the most common and highly stigmatised disorders affecting newborn babies,” Professor Koopman said.

“Our research will reveal how the Y chromosome regulates normal male development, identify the steps that go wrong in many male babies, and suggest ways to diagnose and deal with these conditions.

“It will also pave the way for biotechnological applications in the areas of stem cell technology, pest management, wildlife conservation and animal breeding.”

Associate Professor Rick Sturm and Professor Jennifer Stow will receive nearly half a million dollars to investigate the genes that determine human skin pigmentation.

“These genes are not only responsible for skin colour, but are also likely to be associated with skin cancer risk,” Associate Professor Sturm said.

“Our research should eventually enable prediction of an individual's skin cancer risk based on their genes.

“This will allow the targeting of skin cancer prevention campaigns to be greatly improved over the current strategy of broad campaigns aimed at increasing general community awareness of the damaging effects of UV radiation.”

Media contacts:
Professor Peter Koopman – 3346 2059

Professor Rick Sturm – 3346 2038

Bronwyn Allan, IMB Communication – 3346 2134 / 0418 575 247

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