BSc (Hons 1st Class; 1992), University of Sydney
PhD (1999), University of Sydney
Associate Professor Shane Thomas is a biochemist and vascular biologist who has built an international reputation for his basic science and preclinical research into the roles of oxidative stress and inflammation in the development of cardiovascular disease and inflammatory disorders. He received a PhD in 1999 from the University of Sydney for his studies investigating the role of oxidative stress in atherosclerosis. A/Prof. Thomas was the awarded an NHMRC CJ Martin fellowship (2000-04) to perform his post-doctoral studies on oxidative stress and endothelial dysfunction under the mentorship of Prof. John Keaney, Jr. at the Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute, Boston University (USA). He subsequently received an NHMRC RD Wright Career Development Award (CDA; 2006-10) that allowed to him establish an independent research group at the Centre for Vascular Research, UNSW. Since this time, he has successfully led an independent, externally funded cardiovascular disease-focused research program at UNSW within the School of Medical Sciences. He currently co-leads the Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disease Research Group and is Head of the Department of Pathology in the School of Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine & Health, UNSW.
Competitive Grant Funding.
Since 2005, A/Prof. Thomas has been awarded significant Category 1 research project grant funding (Total >$8.5 million as CI) including:
- 5 CIA and 2 CIB NHMRC project grants (incl. 1 current NHMRC Ideas grant: 2022-27, $1.5 million)
- 1 CIC Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) grant (2022-26, $2,849,891; $712,473 direct funds to A/Prof. Thomas)
- 1 CIB NSW Govt. Senior Cardiovascular Research Grant (2020-2023)
- 2 CIA and 2 CIB National Heart Foundation Vanguard Grants (2021-23) ($150,000 per grant/2 years)
- 3 CIA Diabetes Australia Research Trust (DART) grants (2014, 2013, 2008)
- 1 CIA Australian-India Strategic Research Fund grant (2011-2014)
- 1 CIA Cure Cancer Foundation grant (2007)
- 1 CIA National Heart Foundation grant-in-aid (2006-2007)
- UNSW ‘Outstanding Excellence in Postgraduate Research Supervisor Award’ (one of only 3 awarded across UNSW in 2014)
- Ross Hohnen Award for Research Excellence from the National Heart Foundation for the highest ranked Grant-in-Aid (2005)
- New England Cardiovascular Postdoctoral Research Award: 5th New England Cardiovascular Research Competition (Boston, USA, 2001).
A/Profs Thomas' co-leads the Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disease research group at UNSW with Prof. Kerry-Anne Rye. His research focusses on understanding the oxidative and inflammatory processes promoting endothelial dysfunction and cardiovascular disease and the development of new therapeutics targeting these processes. He also has a long-term interest in the biochemical regulation and patho-physiological roles of the central immune regulatory heme enzyme called indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO1).
We are developing new anti-inflammatory therapies that prevent the development of atherosclerotic lesions, which can rupture and stop blood from getting to the heart, causing a heart attack. We are also asking whether these anti-inflammatory therapies can heal the tissue damage that is caused by a heart attack. In particular, we are complexing a new class of immune modulatory nanoparticles with clinically viable anti-inflammatory peptides or small molecule drugs targeting specific oxidative and pro-inflammatory enzymes to suppress inflammation in the heart and blood vessels. We envisage that these new nanotherapeutics will reduce the risk of having a heart attack and improve recovery after a heart attack. This research involves biochemistry, molecular biology, pharmacology, vascular biology, and pre-clinical models of cardiovascular disease.
The endothelium is critical for the maintenance of vascular homeostasis. Cardiovascular disease patients are characterized by the formation of a dysfunctional endothelium that increases their risk of experiencing a clinical cardiovascular events such as a heart attack. Considerable evidence shows that endothelial dysfunction is due to oxidative stress in the blood vessel wall and there is great interest in defining the oxidative processes and cell signaling events involved. A recently discovered form of endothelial dysfunction promoting the formation of vulnerable atherosclerotic lesions is the process of endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EndMT), which refers to the genetic reprogramming of homeostatic endothelial cells into pro-inflammatory mesenchymal-like cells. Current interest surrounds understanding the stimuli and biochemical signaling pathways underlying EndMT. We are currently studying roles for mitochondria and associated redox reactions in driving EndMT. This research has the potential to discover new molecular targets for suppressing EndMT that can lead to the development of new therapeutics for treating endothelial dysfunction and cardiovascular disease.
Indoleamine 2, 3-dioxygenase1 (IDO1) is an intracellular heme enzyme that catalyzes the catabolism of L-tryptophan (L-Trp) along the kynurenine pathway. IDO1 represents a central immune regulatory enzyme . Thus, expression of IDO1 in professional antigen presenting cells or tumor cells and resultant depletion of L-Trp, the least abundant essential amino acid, inhibits T cell activation to promote immune suppression and tolerance during inflammation, transplantation, auto-immunity, infectious disease and cancer. In light of the important immune regulatory roles of IDO it is important to understand how the enzyme is controlled. Our previous studies were the first to describe post-translational regulation of IDO and this project aims to characterize the post-translational modifications involved and the extent to which they govern the immune regulatory actions of antigen presenting cells and tumour cells. Identification of how IDO1 is regulated may facilitate the development of novel drug strategies to modulate IDO activity in vivo.
Society Memberships & Professional Activities:
Australasian Society for Free Radical Research, Australian Vascular Biology Society, Australian Atherosclerosis Society, Australian Cardiovascular Alliance, Society for Redox Biology & Medicine (SFRBM, USA).
My Research Supervision
I currently supervise 2 PhD students and 4 Honours students.
To date I have supervised 10 completed PhD students, 1 MSc, and 17 BSc (Hons) students (16 awarded 1st class Hons).
Post-Graduate Supervisor Award: In 2014 I received a UNSW ‘Outstanding Excellence in Postgraduate Research Supervisor Award’.
A/Prof. Thomas the Head of Department of Pathology, which delivers teaching on the mechanisms of disease and disease diagnosis to medicine and medical sciences students at UNSW. He teaches into the Cardiovascular Disease Unit in the 3rd year Medical Science course PATH3205 (Molecular Basis of Disease) and co-convenes the Health Maintenance Phase 1 Medicine course, which is taken by approximately 550 first and second year medical students annually.