IMB researchers to investigate if cholesterol affects the immune system

8 Nov 2013

IMB researchers have been awarded four grants and three fellowships worth $3.2 million from the Australian Research Council for projects including determining the effect of cholesterol on the immune system.

Professor Jennifer Stow and Professor George Muscat received $420,000 over three years to study how the immune system reacts to different levels of cholesterol, which is required by white blood cells known as macrophages to ingest and kill bacteria. 

“Our study will show at a cellular level how changes in cholesterol levels might disrupt the immune system and reduce the body’s ability to fight off infection,” Professor Stow said.

“Cholesterol dysregulation is now a prevalent condition in society, with high blood cholesterol a contributing factor in coronary heart disease.

“Our results will reveal at a fundamental, molecular level how cholesterol dysregulation might also compromise immune defences.”

Dr Kate Schroder will also investigate immune system function after receiving a $760,000 five-year Future Fellowship.

Future Fellowships are designed to attract and retain the best and brightest mid-career researchers working in areas of critical national importance.

Dr Schroder will investigate the innate immune system, which is the body’s first line of defence against invading micro-organisms.

“My fellowship will allow me to characterise the biological pathways that act as early warning systems to alert the body to ‘danger’ from microbes and trigger the launch of anti-microbial defences,” Dr Schroder said.

“A greater understanding of these pathways may ultimately lead to commercial opportunities for treating infection and chronic inflammation.”

Other successful IMB researchers were:

• Dr Josephine Bowles – Discovery Grant (Modelling stem cell decisions in mouse germ cells)

• Dr Lachlan Coin – Discovery Grant (Using population resequencing data to investigate the evolutionary role and functional impact of inversion polymorphisms

• Dr Mat Francois – Discovery Grant (Deciphering the cellular functions of caveolae that govern lymphatic vascular development)

• Dr Irina Vetter – Future Fellowship

• Dr Michele Bastiani – Discovery Early Career Researcher Award

To invest in immune system research at IMB, please visit or call (07) 3346 2134.

The Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) is a research institute of The University of Queensland that aims to improve quality of life by advancing personalised medicine, drug discovery and biotechnology.

Media contact:

Bronwyn Adams, IMB Communications Manager – 0418 575 247, 07 3346 2134 or