Areas of Research

The GMRI’s work will continue to benefit patients in New Zealand and gain further international significance.

The GMRI’s current areas of research include cancer, fibrotic conditions, vascular birthmarks and regenerative medicine, based on the role of stem cells in disease and health.


The molecular basis of diseases

The GMRI is looking to identify the fundamental causes of disfiguring conditions and life-threatening diseases at a cellular and molecular level. This will help the team to gain a greater understanding of associated diseases, particularly the causes of birthmarks, fibrotic conditions and cancer.

In turn, this may lead to the development of novel treatments that avoid or significantly reduce the need for invasive surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and which will ultimately lead to better health outcomes.

The GMRI’s ground-breaking research to date provides an insight into cancer. The team and their collaborators have discovered the role of the renin-angiotensin system in strawberry birthmark and have learned it can be manipulated to trigger self-destruction of this tumour by inducing tumour stem cells to ‘commit suicide’.

Dr Tan’s team recently received the top award at the Tri-Society Head and Neck Oncology Meeting in Australia for their work on cancer stem cells in tongue cancer.

This breakthrough may be extended to other cancers in the head and neck region, as well as cancers elsewhere in the body.

Manipulation of angiogenesis

Angiogenesis is the phenomenon of new blood vessel formation that promotes wound healing and tissue regeneration. Angiogenesis also supports the formation of birthmarks, fibrotic conditions and the growth of cancer.

The GMRI team is endeavouring to understand how angiogenesis can be manipulated, work that could result in more effective treatments for birthmarks and new options to control cancer.


Regenerative medicine

Regenerative medicine will enable surgeons and scientists to grow new tissues within patients, using their own stem cells to replace what is missing as a result of birth anomalies, cancer treatment and trauma, including burns.

Supporting the body to heal itself through the creation of new, healthy tissue avoids the need to harvest healthy tissue from elsewhere for reconstruction.

Regenerative medicine is a rapidly evolving field with the ability to radically improve medical care.