Coughlan research group

Group Leader

A/Prof Melinda Coughlan

Research fellows
Dr Gavin Higgins
Dr Cesara Granata
Dr Sih Min Tan

Clinical Coordinator
Dr Vicki Thallas-Bonke

PhD students
Ms Runa Lindblom
Mr Matthew Snelson

Contact Details
E: melinda.coughlan@monash.edu
+61 3 9903 0005

Key terms: Diabetes, mitochondria, advanced glycation end products, processed food, dietary modification, nutrition

Research goals

  1. To understand how overconsumption of processed foods leads to the development of chronic disease
  2. To identify new therapeutic targets to slow the progression of diabetic complications

The group



Feb 2017. L-R. Dr Vicki Thallas-Bonke, Dr Gavin Higgins, A/Prof Melinda Coughlan, Mr Matthew Snelson, Ms Runa Lindblom, Dr Cesara Granata
Absent: Dr Sih Min Tan

Research overview

Our laboratory focuses on dietary factors leading to the onset and/or progression of diabetes and its complications. We also aim to identify new biochemical targets of therapy for diabetic complications.

It is becoming increasingly recognised that environmental factors are involved in the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes. Diet is thought to play a key role. Our intake of processed foods has increased dramatically over the past 40 years. Since the diet is comprised of a multitude of nutritional and chemical molecules capable of regulating diverse biological processes, it is plausible that certain constituents of the diet are responsible for the initiation of pathways of disease. More research is critical to unravel the complex relationships among diet, physiology and risk of chronic disease.

A major goal of this laboratory is to understand which constituents of the modern diet initiate pathological processes. This is achieved through laboratory-based nutrition science using dietary intervention studies coupled with innovative methods to elucidate mechanisms at the molecular level using a multidisciplinary approach. This research is readily translated by collaboration with dieticians and nutrition researchers.
Diabetes-associated kidney disease, which affects more than 400,000 Australians, is the major cause of end-stage renal disease, requiring dialysis or kidney transplantation for survival. Current clinical therapies used to treat patients with diabetic kidney disease can only delay and do not prevent this progression to end stage renal disease. There is an urgent need to understand the factors that trigger kidney damage in diabetes, and to develop new therapies that can be applied early in the disease to stop the progression to end stage renal disease.
A key aim of the laboratory is to develop better treatment strategies for individuals with diabetic nephropathy by studying biochemical mechanisms in genetically modified mouse models and in cell culture. Preclinical discoveries are directly translated to human disease by investigating relevant markers of these pathways in human renal biopsies, plasma and urine from individuals with diabetes.

Projects and opportunities

Current project funding

  • 2016-20 Coughlan MT, Cooper ME, Devenish RJ. NHMRC project grant 1101309. Investigating pathways of mitochondrial quality control in diabetic kidney disease. $944,517.50
  • 2016-20 Coughlan MT. JDRF Career Development Award.  Mapping the mitochondrial signature of individuals with type 1 diabetes and nephropathy. $ 920,000.00

Recent publications

Pubmed link [Coughlan MT]