23 Nov, 2010 01:00 AM
THE Westmead Millennium Institute is celebrating a major success following the announcement of National Health and Medical Research Council grants for 2011.
The institute's research team at the Storr Liver Unit secured four project grants for work focused on treatments for liver disease, including liver cancer and hepatitis C.
One of these projects will study the role of cannabis-like hormones in hepatitis C and other chronic liver diseases.
Working on the project will be Mark Douglas, a specialist who runs the viral hepatitis service at Blacktown Hospital.
"This is a very interesting project because we have known for some time that in people with hepatitis C, smoking cannabis can cause fatty liver and accelerate liver fibrosis," Dr Douglas said.
"What we discovered recently was that hepatitis C actually makes the liver more sensitive to cannabis and to cannabis-like hormones produced normally in the body.
"We believe the hepatitis C virus uses these hormones to its advantage, helping it to replicate better.
"The aim of our project is to understand how this works, so we can turn it to our advantage and improve treatments.
"We hope that by blocking endocannabinoids in people with hepatitis C, we can improve current cure rates."
In other projects, led by Dr Lionel Hebbard, Dr Jianhua Wang and Associate Professor David Booth, researchers will investigate the underlying mechanisms for the development of liver cancer, liver scarring and liver disease in hepatitis C.