Trait Secret 特征秘密

Professor Kathryn North AM

Director of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute


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One of the most superior Australian minds, Professor Kathryn North is the director of Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the David Danks Professor of Child Health Research at the University of Melbourne.  She is also Chair of Research Committee to the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia and a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for service to medicine in the field of neuromuscular and neurogenetics research.

“Now we can take blood or skin cells from you and recreate your kidneys in the laboratory. We’re starting to recreate cartilage cells as well.”

Trainedasapaediatric physician, neurologist and clinical geneticist,  Professor North is also an international leading expert in genomic medicine.

Brilliant and beautiful, Professor Kathryn North is devoid of amour propre, with no apparent air or condescendence. There is self-value and pride at the right doses as well as a healthy sense of humour and wit to complement her intellectual prowess. And then there is also that inimitable sense of style and sassiness in her dressing and impish choir-boy haircut. People love Kathryn North.    

In 1994 Professor North was awarded a doctorate for research in neurogenetics. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Harvard Genetics Program.

Interest in genetics developed from her training in neurology where her focus was on children with severe intellectual disabilities and muscular dystrophies. Most of these disorders have a genetic or inherited basis. “When I started practising medicine the human genome haven’t been sequenced. I could not give the parents an answer as to why their children aren’t developing normally. It’s literally those simple questions every parent deserves to know that really drives me,” she shares.

Her research in genetic diagnosis produced ground-breaking results. “By using the latest genomic technologies, we’ve increased the diagnostic rate by four times at a fifth of the cost. Genomic medicine is set revolutionising clinical care.  We are moving towards prevention and early intervention, instead of waiting for the problem to occur and then treat it, a method which is often costly and ineffective. In some cases, we can even prevent intellectual disability and start treatment before the brain gets damaged. That’s the dream.”

“Genomic medicine is set revolutionise clinical care. We are moving towards prevention and early intervention”

With genetics, there is always the proverbial argument of ‘playing god’. “Everything we do goes through ethics approval and family consent to make sure we are respecting the patient’s beliefs and wishes. Genomic testing is not so different. It’s just much better with a lot more sensitivity and accurate results,” she reveals.

Essentially this guru of genetics is passionate about child health. The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute is by far the best in Australia and one of the top five child health facilities in the world. “We are able to attract funding because of our excellence. We work very actively with peer-reviewed funding agencies and philanthropists where we commercialise and drive innovation within the industry to make our discoveries and inventions available.”

“I still have big plans for this place, I can tell you. With genomic medicine, we are working out some of the big problems in food allergies. We are rolling out life-saving vaccines in Asia and Africa. Stem cell medicine and therapy is our latest initiative. Now we can take blood or skin cells from you and recreate your kidneys in the laboratory. We’re starting to recreate cartilage cells as well,” she beams.

I’m immensely proud of it and it’s just wonderful to be able to do something like that. I look forward to coming to work every day.”   

1-cover2.jpg身为澳大利亚医学翘楚之一,KathrynNorth教授是Murdoch儿童研究所总监及墨尔本大学儿童保健研究DavidDanks教授。她同时是澳大利亚国家卫生和医学研究委员会主席,并荣获澳大利亚政府颁发勋章
(AM),表彰她于神经肌肉和神经系统医学研究领域的贡献。

此外,作为训练有素的儿科医生、神经病学家和临床遗传学家,Kathryn North教授也是国际基因组医学领先专家。

集才华与美丽于一身,Kathryn North教授却没有自傲自负气息,显得不卑不亢。表现适度的自我价值和自豪感,擅长以健康的幽默和机智点缀她的强大智慧。再加上独特的衣着风格和顽皮唱诗班男孩一般的发型,人们都爱她。

“在可通过抽取你的血液或皮肤细胞,并在实验室重建你的肾脏。而我们也开始再造软骨细胞。”

1994年,她被授予神经遗传学研究博士学位,并且接续完成哈佛遗传学计划的博士后研究。至于她对于遗传学的兴趣是在神经病学的培训中所引发,着重点是儿童重度智力障碍和肌肉萎缩。这些疾病大多数来自遗传或基因。“在我实习医学时,人类基因组还未被测序。对于那些父母提出为何他们的孩子没有正常发育,我无法给出一个确切答案。但这个所有家长都理应知道的简单问题,也是让我走向探索答案的驱动力。”

目前她的遗传诊断研究有了突破性的成果。“通过使用最新的基因组技术,我们只耗五分之一成本就将诊断率提高了4倍。基因组医学设置革命性的临床护理。我们正在开展预防和早期干预行动,并非等待问题发生再应对,这明显加剧成本和无效。在一些情况下,甚至可以防范智障问题,并在大脑受损前开始治疗,这就是梦想。”

关于遗传学,总是环绕着“扮演上帝”的争议声音。“我们所做的一切都通过伦理审批和家庭同意,并确保尊重患者的信念和愿望。基因组测试没有任何不同,只是增加灵敏度和让结果更准确。”

“基因组医学设置革命性的临床护理。我们正在开展预防和早期干预行动。”

这名遗传学权威对孩子的健康充满关注与热情。Murdoch儿童研究所不仅是澳大利亚最佳,也是世界五大儿童保健设施之一。“我们的卓越性导致能够不断吸引资金。我们非常积极地与同行审议资金机构和慈善家共同努力,实行商业化和推动行业创新,让我们的发现与发明成果派上
用场。”

“我还有相关的庞大计划,这与基因组医学有关,我们正在解决食品过敏的关键问题,也在亚洲和非洲延伸出救生疫苗。另外,干细胞医学和治疗是最新的倡议。现在可通过抽取你的血液或皮肤细胞,并在实验室重建你的肾脏。而我们也开始再造软骨细胞。我对此感到无限自豪,能够进行类似事情真的太美好,所以每天工作都令人感到期待。”


by Billie Ooi – Ng Lean Gaik

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