Musa Mhlanga
Musa Mhlanga

1.5 million funding for research project on immunity of transgender people

Cell-biologist Musa Mhlanga has been awarded a grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation for his research project entitled ‘Understanding the effects of Gender Affirming Hormone Therapy (GAHT) on immune function using a systems immunology approach’. He will receive the grant, worth 1.5 million dollars, together with researchers Boris Novakovic (Murdoch Children’s Research Institute), Ada Cheung (University of Melbourne) and Rachel Davey (University of Melbourne).

There are well known differences between how male and female immune systems function. For example, females show lower COVID-19 mortality and lower rates of cardiovascular disease than males, but have higher rates of auto-immune disease. It is also known that sex hormones can epigenetically influence immune function, but how they do this in the context of infection and inflammatory disease is unclear. 

In this project, Musa Mhlanga and his colleagues will investigate how sex hormones (estradiol and testosterone) epigenetically change the immunity of transgender people undergoing gender affirming hormone therapy. This longitudinal approach will allow researchers to study the action of sex hormones beyond the population level, and to dive deeper into how circulating sex hormones affect individual immune responses. Insights from this study could be used to improve health outcomes for transgender people as well as members of both genders and provide greater understanding into the action of sex hormones on immunity more generally.

About the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation funding

In total, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, part of the Allen Institute, will award $1.5 million to seven research projects which 18 researchers will lead. Together, these awards represent a total of approximately $10.5 million in funding from the Foundation, as recommended by The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group, to support cutting-edge, early-stage research projects that promise to advance the fields of biology and medicine. The seven awarded projects were selected from open calls for proposals in two fields: extracellular vesicles and sex hormones. When considering funding areas, The Frontiers Group looks for emerging fields where an investment could be catalytic to advance scientific progress—not just for awardees, but for all in that particular field. 

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