2017 Griffith University Discovery Award Winner: Dr Avnika Ruparelia

The Griffith University Discovery Award recognises an early career researcher This award recognises an early career researcher whose paper, patent or discovery has already demonstrated its importance or impact.

Congratulations to Award Winner – Dr Avnika Ruparelia, Monash University

Dr Avnika Ruparelia is an early career researcher in the School of Biological Sciences at Monash University, who has made outstanding contributions to the muscle disease field.

Since starting her PhD in 2011 Avnika has explored the cause of muscle weakness in, and therapeutics for a group of late onset muscle disorders known as myofibrillar myopathies. Patients affected with this disease suffer progressive muscle weakness over many years and have reduced life expectancy due to respiratory muscle failure and cardiac complications. There is currently no treatment available for this disease and Avnika’s research has made
remarkable efforts to change this. Avnika generated novel zebrafish models of myofibrillar myopathy that mirrored the features seen in patients. Using these models, Avnika identified why the patients don’t show any symptoms until their teenage years and why the severity of disease gets progressively worse. This is ground breaking because these findings suggested strategies that could potentially prevent any further muscle damage in patients affected with the disease, therefore providing a therapeutic benefit.
Investigating potential therapeutic compounds for myofibrillar myopathy is what Avnika focused on next during her postdoctoral work. She performed a drug screen and identified compounds that not only ameliorated the pathology seen in the disease but also prevented muscle weakness in her zebrafish models.
Importantly, some of these compounds are already approved for use in patients for the treatment of other diseases. This will hopefully allow for rapid translation into a clinical setting for the treatment of myofibrillar myopathy.

Image Caption: Mr Ashok Ruparelia, Dr Avnika Ruparelia, Prof David Shum [Griffith University]

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