This interdisciplinary program joins together researchers developing novel therapies and technologies to restore structure and functions of tissues and organs affected by diseases, injury and age. Our research aims to reveal therapeutic potential and mechanisms of action of mesenchymal stem cells including circulating osteoprogenitor (COP) cells for the treatment of osteoporosis, sarcopenia, bone frailty and injury, damaged cartilage, muscular dystrophy, enteric neuropathy associated with inflammatory bowel disease and damage to the organs caused by anti-cancer chemotherapy.
Apart from stem cell-based therapies, we are working on the development of novel immunotherapies, vaccines, anabolic and pharmacological treatments that stimulate tissue regeneration. Our team is developing delivery systems for stem cell-based therapies, immunotherapeutic and pharmacological agents to increase their therapeutic efficacy while reducing their side-effects. In our studies we use pre-clinical animal models of osteosarcopenia, inflammatory bowel disease, Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy, cancer and chemotherapy as well as human tissues.

Associate Professor Kulmira Nurgali
Program Director
Associate Professor Kulmira Nurgali has an internationally-recognised prominence in the fields of Neurogastroenterology and Enteric Neuroscience. A/Prof Nurgali is a medical graduate; she completed her PhD at Melbourne University (December 2004) under the supervision of Prof John Furness, a world leader in the field of Enteric Neuroscience. She received a very prestigious NHMRC Peter Doherty Fellowship (2006-09) and continued working at Melbourne University in Professor Joel Bornstein’s lab, a world leader in Gastrointestinal Physiology.
She accepted a research and teaching position at Victoria University in 2010 and established a very successful Enteric Neuropathy lab at the Centre for Health, Research and Education at the Sunshine Hospital. In 2016, she was promoted to Associate Professor at Victoria University. In 2017, she joined the Department of Medicine Western Health at the University of Melbourne as an Honorary Associate Professor and was appointed as the Director of the Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cells Program at the Australian Institute for Musculoskeletal Science.
A/Prof Nurgali’s research interests include enteric neuropathy associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), colorectal cancer and side-effects of anti-cancer chemotherapy, IBD-induced osteosarcopenia, the role of brain-gut axis and neuro-immune interactions in IBD, cancer and depression. Her research significantly contributes to understanding of mechanisms underlying these problems and proposes novel therapies. Being a medical graduate, she focuses on pre-clinical studies that have translational value and direct impact on patient’s life and outcomes of the treatment. Dr Nurgali’s research philosophy is to translate scientific discoveries of basic science research (bench) into novel therapies for human disease (bedside).

Prof Gustavo Duque
Linked Program Director
Professor Gustavo Duque is a world leader in ageing and musculoskeletal research. He is a geriatrician and a clinical and biomedical researcher with special interest in the mechanisms and treatment of osteoporosis, sarcopenia and frailty in older persons. His initial training included Internal Medicine at Javeriana University (Colombia) and Geriatric Medicine, which he completed at McGill University in Montreal (Canada). Subsequently, he obtained his PhD at McGill University in 2003 with a thesis entitled ‘Molecular Changes of the Ageing Osteoblast’ under the supervision of Dr Richard Kremer.
Between 2003 and November 2007, Prof Duque joined the faculty at McGill University Medical School as a member of the Division of Geriatric Medicine and as Researcher at the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research. In November 2007, he moved to Australia to join the Faculty as Associate Professor and Head of the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Director of the Musculoskeletal Ageing Research Program at Sydney Medical School Nepean – University of Sydney. In 2012, he was promoted to Professor of Medicine at the University of Sydney. In 2015, Prof Duque moved to Melbourne to assume a new position as Chair of Medicine and Director of the Australian Institute for Musculoskeletal Science at the University of Melbourne.
Prof Duque’s major research interests include the elucidation of the mechanisms of age-related bone loss, osteoporosis, sarcopenia and frailty. He is also looking at the effect of vitamin D, exercise and proteins on bone and muscle mass. Finally, he is implementing a new Falls and Fractures clinic at Sunshine Hospital where patients are assessed for falls and fractures risk in a comprehensive manner.

A/Prof Damian Myers
Linked Program Director
Damian Myers is an Associate Professor in the College of Health and Biomedicine, Victoria University; Program Director for Medical Imaging and Principal Research Fellow at AIMSS, as well as an Honorary Principal Fellow, Department of Medicine, St Vincent’s Hospital and Western Hospitals. An expert in Medical Imaging and Basic Science, A/Prof Myers has had previous appointments as Senior Scientist, Epilepsy and Neuropharmacology Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Royal Melbourne Hospital; Project Leader and Consultant for CRC for Biomedical Imaging Development and Senior Research Scientist, CSIRO Materials Science and Engineering, X-ray Science and Instrumentation and Advanced Materials-Wave Physics.

Prof Alan Hayes
Program Director
Professor Alan Hayes is the Assistant Dean, Western Centre for Health Research and Education (WCHRE) located at Sunshine Hospital and the Deputy Director of the Australian Institute for Musculoskeletal Sciences (AIMSS). Professor Hayes has over 25 years’ experience in muscle physiology studies. Professor Hayes’ doctoral studies at The University of Melbourne investigated muscle contractile and histological function in in mice with muscular dystrophy, a severe muscle wasting disease. Upon arriving at Victoria University, his research expanded to be inclusive of the importance of muscle mass and function in a variety of health conditions. As such he has extensive experience with human and animal trials as well as cell culture models, and maintains a focus on investigating potential therapies for DMD as well as the interplay between sarcopenia and obesity. Age related changes, particularly with concomitant obesity, are going to be a massive chronic disease issue as the population ages and rates of obesity arise, and thus his current focus is in trying to understand the underlying causes of sarcopenia and investigating possible treatments.

Dr Ebrahim Bani Hassan DrVM, DrVSc, PhD, GCALL, GCUT, Fel.IBLAIM
Linked Program Director
Ebrahim is a veterinary surgeon and internist, and a Fellow of IBLAIM. His speciality is musculoskeletal pathobiology, imaging and image analysis; and also holds PhD and postdoc experiences in the field. He is currently working on the pathobiology and diagnostics of osteosarcopenia, osteoporosis, sarcopenia and osteoarthritis. He is interested in studying the interactions between bone muscle and fat tissues, as well as musculoskeletal decline in association with other system diseases (e.g. metabolic, cardiovascular and neurological conditions). Ebrahim is in charge of the clinical imaging and image analysis facilities at AIMSS and welcomes well-designed collaborative projects on musculoskeletal health and pathobiology. This program at the moment is nursing a very young project on the 3D printing of bone. Watch the space for the exciting news.


  • Identification of the mechanisms of mesenchymal stem cells differentiation into bone, muscle and fat. Investigation the interactions between these cells and development of new therapeutic approaches that stimulate differentiation of stem cells into bone and muscle at the expense of fat.
  • The role of circulating osteoprogenitor cells in age-related diseases such as osteoporosis, sarcopenia and frailty.
  • Investigating lamin A expression in circulating osteoprogenitor cells as a potential biomarker for musculoskeletal diseases.
  • The interaction of a potential bone anabolic with human mesenchymal stem cells.
  • Mesenchymal stem cells for the treatment of enteric neuropathy associated with IBD: understanding mechanisms underlying their therapeutic potential.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease-induced osteoporosis: changes in the bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells. Stem cell-based therapies for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease-induced osteoporosis.
  • Novel treatments for gastrointestinal, neurological and musculoskeletal side-effects of chemotherapy.
  • Optimisation of colorectal cancer treatment by smart nano-drug delivery system.
  • Investigating potential treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy and other muscle wasting conditions.
  • Development of novel biologic therapies for the treatment of enteric neuropathy.
  • Vaccine against multiple sclerosis.
Our Team