Professor Peter Sly

NHMRC Leadership Fellow

Child Health Research Centre
Faculty of Medicine
p.sly@uq.edu.au
+61 7 3069 7383

Overview

Professor Peter Sly is the Director, Children's Health and Environment Program and Director, WHO Collaborating Centre for Children's Health and Environment. Professor Sly is a NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow and a paediatric respiratory physician with extensive research experience in respiratory physiology, developmental immunology and children's environmental health. Professor Sly’s research aims to understand the mechanisms underlying chronic childhood lung diseases in order to improve clinical management and to delay or prevent their onset, with consequent reductions in adult lung diseases. A combination of basic science, longitudinal cohort studies and translation of research findings into clinical practice, including clinical trials, are included in three main areas: asthma, cystic fibrosis and children’s environmental health

Professor Sly is an advisor to the World Health Organisation Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Disease and currently serves on International Advisory Boards and committees, including: WHO network of Collaborating Centres in Children’s Environmental Health; Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study, Canada; the Infant Lung Health Study, Paarl, South Africa; and A SHARED Future: Achieving Strength, Health, and Autonomy, through Renewable Energy Development for the Future.

Research Interests

  • Asthma
    Understanding mechanisms that underlie risks for developing asthma in susceptible children
  • Cystic Fibrosis
    Understanding the mechanisms underlying the development of lung disease early in life and why and how this progresses
  • Impact of environmental exposures in early life
    Improving methods of assessing environmental exposures during fetal development and in early postnatal life. Improving methods for assessing the effects of early life environmental exposures and understanding how these increase long-tern risk of chronic disease.

Qualifications

  • Doctor of Medicine, University of Melbourne
  • Doctor of Science, The University of Western Australia
  • Bachlor of Medicine and Surgery, University of Melbourne

Publications

View all Publications

Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision

Available Projects

  • Due to current funding and immigration restrictions we are only able to accept domestic students.

    Ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T) is a rare, multi-system disease that is characterized by cerebellar degeneration, immunodeficiency, chromosomal instability, recurrent pulmonary infections, liver defects and cancer. ATM, the protein mutated in A-T, is largely involved in DNA damage sensing and repair, however its extranuclear roles are now becoming increasingly recognized. At present, there is no cure for A-T. A leading cause of death in A-T is respiratory failure, however, little is known about the mechanism of susceptibility to lung disease in patients with this fatal disorder.

    This project will identify differences in the response to bacterial infection in airway cells obtained from patients with A-T as compared to those from healthy individuals. We have previously shown that A-T cells are more sensitive to infection with Streptococcus pneumoniae and we aim to further understand the pathological mechanism behind this phenomenon by investigating differences in gene expression post-infection using RNA sequencing. This study will be extended to identifying the changes that occur with infection following the exposure to an anaplerotic compound designed to treat A-T. These approaches will provide further mechanistic insights into the pathology of pulmonary failure in A-T and potentially uncover new targets for the future development of therapeutic treatments for patients.

    This project would suit a student with a strong background in cell and molecular biology. Knowledge of or experience in basic laboratory techniques such as cell culture, immunofluorescence and gene expression studies would be helpful.

  • Due to current funding and immigration restrictions we are only able to accept domestic students.

    Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a life-limiting, genetic disease affecting exocrine gland function. CF is primarily a disease of defective epithelial salt and fluid transport resulting from mutations in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) chloride channel; however, the disease phenotype is pleiotropic. It impacts the whole body but mainly affects the lungs and the digestive system. Pulmonary involvement occurs in 90% of patients surviving the neonatal period. End-stage lung disease is often the principal cause of death.

    Few studies have shown an association of CFTR with caveolin-1, an integral membrane protein, required for efficient endocytosis of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacteria frequently colonizing the lungs of patients with CF. However, caveolin-1 is also involved in the regulation and maintenance of mitochondrial integrity and function. Interestingly, several mitochondrial defects have been reported in CF including decreased electron transport chain activity, a reduction in calcium uptake and mitochondrial fragmentation. Given that decreased caveolin-1 expression has been described in CF cells, we will further investigate its association with CFTR and identify other regulatory partners that contribute to the pathology of CF.

    This project would suit a student with a strong background in cell and molecular biology. Knowledge of or experience in basic laboratory techniques such as cell culture, immunofluorescence and western blotting would be helpful.

  • Due to current funding and immigration restrictions we are only able to accept domestic students.

    Exposure to environmental factors in early life has been associated with poorer respiratory health for children. Both indoor and ambient air pollutants can negatively affect respiratory health, and there is increasing evidence that environmental chemicals may also have deleterious effects on child health.

    This project aims to use existing data to explore the association of indoor and ambient air pollutants at home with children’s lung function in longitudinal cohort studies of Australian children, and to examine the role of modifying/mediating factors. Both modelled air pollution and stationary monitor data will be used to allocate exposure to ambient air pollutants. Air quality and environmental chemicals present in the home environment, as assessed in surveys, will be examined for association with lung function, wheeze and allergic disease. The role of oxidative stress and free radicals will be examined.

    This project would suit a student with skills in statistics, epidemiology, public health or geography. Experience working with environmental datasets, R or GIS, and an understanding of mediation analyses is essential.

View all Available Projects

Publications

Book

  • Wilmott, Robert William, Bush, Andrew, Deterding, Robin, Ratjen, Felix, Sly, Peter, Zar, Heather J. and Faro, Albert (2018). Kendig's disorders of the respiratory tract in children. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA, United States: Elsevier.

  • L. M. Taussig, L. I. Landau, LeSouef, P. N., Martinez, F. D., Morgan, W. J. and Sly, P. D. eds. (1999). Pediatric respiratory medicine. St Louis, USA: Mosby.

  • J. Stocks, P. D. Sly, R. S. Tepper and W. J. Morgan eds. (1996). Infant Respiratory Function Testing. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Book Chapter

  • Sly, P. D., Chacko, A. and Holt, P. G. (2019). Environmental factors in children’s asthma and respiratory effects. Encyclopedia of Environmental Health. (pp. 437-449) edited by Jerome Nriagu. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Elsevier BV. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-409548-9.09490-2

  • Sly, Peter and Bush, Andrew (2018). Environmental contributions to respiratory disease in children. Kendig's disorders of the respiratory tract in children. (pp. 49-56.e3) Philadelphia, PA, United States: Elsevier Inc.. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-323-44887-1.00004-3

  • Bush, Andrew and Sly, Peter (2018). Long-term consequences of childhood respiratory disease. Kendig's disorders of the respiratory tract in children. (pp. 247-256.e4) Philadelphia, PA, United States: Elsevier Inc.. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-323-44887-1.00015-8

  • Holgate, Stephen T. and Sly, Peter D. (2013). Asthma Pathogenesis. Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice. (pp. 812-841) edited by Adkinson, N., Bochner, Bruce, Burks, A., Busse, William, Holgate, Stephen, Lemanske, Robert and O'Hehir, Robyn. Philadelphia, PA., United States: Elsevier. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-323-08593-9.00051-6

  • Sly, Peter D. (2012). Environmental pollutants and postnatal growth. Handbook of growth and growth monitoring in health and disease. (pp. 757-768) edited by Victor R. Preedy. New York, NY USA: Springer New York. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4419-1795-9_44

  • Sly, Peter D. and Jones, Carmen M. (2012). New and future developments of therapy for asthma in children. Paediatric Asthma. (pp. 224-234) edited by Kai-Håkon Carlsen and Jorrit Gerritsen. Lausanne, Switzerland: European Respiratory Society. doi: 10.1183/1025448x.10018310

  • Sly, P. D., Kusel, M., Franklin, P. and Holt, P. G. (2011). Environmental factors in children’s asthma and respiratory effects. Encyclopedia of environmental health. (pp. 367-379) edited by Jerome O. Nriagu. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier Science. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-52272-6.00018-0

  • Calogero, C. and Sly, P. D. (2010). Developmental physiology : Lung function during growth and development from birth to old age. Paediatric lung function. (pp. 1-15) Shieffield, United Kingdom: European Respiratory Society. doi: 10.1183/1025448x.00011109

  • Sly, Peter D. and Morgan, Wayne J. (2008). Respiratory Function Testing in Infants and Preschool-Aged Children. Pediatric Respiratory Medicine. (pp. 163-169) Elsevier Inc.. doi: 10.1016/B978-032304048-8.50016-5

  • Sly, Peter and Collins, Rachel A. (2008). Applied clinical respiratory physiology. Pediatric respiratory medicine. (pp. 73-88) edited by Lynn M. Taussig, Louis I. Landau, Peter N. Le Souëf, Fernando D. Martinez, Wayne J. Morgan and Peter D. Sly. Philadelphia PA: Mosby/Elsevier. doi: 10.1016/B978-032304048-8.50011-6

  • Sly, Peter, Holt, Patrick G., Stein, Renato T. and Martinez, Fernando D. (2008). Disease mechanisms and cell biology. Pediatric respiratory medicine. (pp. 791-804) edited by Lynn M. Taussig, Louis I. Landau, Peter N. Le Souëf, Fernando D. Martinez, Wayne J. Morgan and Peter D. Sly. Philadelphia PA: Mosby/ Elsevier. doi: 10.1016/B978-032304048-8.50061-X

  • Sly, Peter, Collins, Rachel A. and Morgan, Wayne J. (2008). Lung function in cooperative subjects. Pediatric respiratory medicine. (pp. 171-178) edited by Lynn M. Taussig, Louis I. Landau, Peter N. Le Souëf, Fernando D. Martinez, Wayne J. Morgan and Peter D. Sly. Philadelphia PA: Mosby/ Elsevier. doi: 10.1016/B978-032304048-8.50017-7

  • Taussig, Lynn M., Landau, Louis I., Le Souëf, Peter N., Martinez, Fernando D., Morgan, Wayne J. and Sly, Peter D. (2008). Preface. Pediatric respiratory medicine. (pp. xix-xix) Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier. doi: 10.1016/B978-032304048-8.50004-9

  • Sly, Peter and Morgan, Wayne J. (2008). Respiratory function testing in infants and preschool children. Pediatric respiratory medicine. (pp. 163-170) edited by Lynn M. Taussig, Louis I. Landau, Peter N. Le Souëf, Fernando D. Martinez, Wayne J. Morgan and Peter D. Sly. Philadelphia PA: Mosby/ Elsevier.

  • Holt, Patrick G., Sly, Peter and Devereux, Graham (2006). Early life origins of allergy and asthma. Allergy. (pp. 223-231) edited by Stephen T. Holgate, Martin K. Church and Lawrence M. Lichtenstein. Philadelphia, PA , United States: Mosby Elsevier. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-323-03227-8.50018-4

  • Sly, P. D. (2006). Pediatric Pulmonary Diseases. Encyclopedia of Respiratory Medicine. (pp. 312-316) Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States: Academic Press. doi: 10.1016/B0-12-370879-6/00292-1

  • Douglas T and Sly, Peter (2006). Unique biological characteristics of children; Developmental stage-specific susceptibilities and outcomes in children. Principles for evaluating health risks in children associated with exposure to chemicals. (pp. 22-128) Geneva: World Health Organisation.

  • Sly, Peter and Flack, F. S. (2005). Monitoring childhood asthma. Monitoring asthma. (pp. 363-382) edited by Peter G. Gibson. Boca Raton, U.S.: Taylor & Francis.

  • Sly, Peter, Flack, F. S. and Hantos, Z. (2005). Respiratory mechanics in infants and children. The physiological basis of respiratory disease. (pp. 49-54) edited by Outayba Hamid, Joanne Shannon and James Martin. Hamilton, Ontario, Canada: B.C. Decker.

  • Burton, Paul, Gurrin, Lyle and Sly, Peter (2004). Extending the simple linear regression model to account for correlated responses: An introduction to generalized estimating equations and multilevel mixed modelling. Tutorials in biostatistics. (pp. 1-33) edited by Ralph B. D'Agostino. Chichester, West Sussex, United Kingdom: John Wiley & Sons. doi: 10.1002/0470023724

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

Completed Supervision

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • Due to current funding and immigration restrictions we are only able to accept domestic students.

    Ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T) is a rare, multi-system disease that is characterized by cerebellar degeneration, immunodeficiency, chromosomal instability, recurrent pulmonary infections, liver defects and cancer. ATM, the protein mutated in A-T, is largely involved in DNA damage sensing and repair, however its extranuclear roles are now becoming increasingly recognized. At present, there is no cure for A-T. A leading cause of death in A-T is respiratory failure, however, little is known about the mechanism of susceptibility to lung disease in patients with this fatal disorder.

    This project will identify differences in the response to bacterial infection in airway cells obtained from patients with A-T as compared to those from healthy individuals. We have previously shown that A-T cells are more sensitive to infection with Streptococcus pneumoniae and we aim to further understand the pathological mechanism behind this phenomenon by investigating differences in gene expression post-infection using RNA sequencing. This study will be extended to identifying the changes that occur with infection following the exposure to an anaplerotic compound designed to treat A-T. These approaches will provide further mechanistic insights into the pathology of pulmonary failure in A-T and potentially uncover new targets for the future development of therapeutic treatments for patients.

    This project would suit a student with a strong background in cell and molecular biology. Knowledge of or experience in basic laboratory techniques such as cell culture, immunofluorescence and gene expression studies would be helpful.

  • Due to current funding and immigration restrictions we are only able to accept domestic students.

    Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a life-limiting, genetic disease affecting exocrine gland function. CF is primarily a disease of defective epithelial salt and fluid transport resulting from mutations in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) chloride channel; however, the disease phenotype is pleiotropic. It impacts the whole body but mainly affects the lungs and the digestive system. Pulmonary involvement occurs in 90% of patients surviving the neonatal period. End-stage lung disease is often the principal cause of death.

    Few studies have shown an association of CFTR with caveolin-1, an integral membrane protein, required for efficient endocytosis of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacteria frequently colonizing the lungs of patients with CF. However, caveolin-1 is also involved in the regulation and maintenance of mitochondrial integrity and function. Interestingly, several mitochondrial defects have been reported in CF including decreased electron transport chain activity, a reduction in calcium uptake and mitochondrial fragmentation. Given that decreased caveolin-1 expression has been described in CF cells, we will further investigate its association with CFTR and identify other regulatory partners that contribute to the pathology of CF.

    This project would suit a student with a strong background in cell and molecular biology. Knowledge of or experience in basic laboratory techniques such as cell culture, immunofluorescence and western blotting would be helpful.

  • Due to current funding and immigration restrictions we are only able to accept domestic students.

    Exposure to environmental factors in early life has been associated with poorer respiratory health for children. Both indoor and ambient air pollutants can negatively affect respiratory health, and there is increasing evidence that environmental chemicals may also have deleterious effects on child health.

    This project aims to use existing data to explore the association of indoor and ambient air pollutants at home with children’s lung function in longitudinal cohort studies of Australian children, and to examine the role of modifying/mediating factors. Both modelled air pollution and stationary monitor data will be used to allocate exposure to ambient air pollutants. Air quality and environmental chemicals present in the home environment, as assessed in surveys, will be examined for association with lung function, wheeze and allergic disease. The role of oxidative stress and free radicals will be examined.

    This project would suit a student with skills in statistics, epidemiology, public health or geography. Experience working with environmental datasets, R or GIS, and an understanding of mediation analyses is essential.

  • Due to current funding and immigration restrictions we are only able to accept domestic students.

    There is an increasing body of evidence showing an association between plasticisers and allergic disease. Exposure to phthalates during pregnancy has been associated with increased risk of allergic diseases in resulting offspring. This study seeks to explore the association between phthalates measured in maternal urine during pregnancy, and the risk of allergic disease in children at 1 year of age. Mediating factors will be explored, to test for potential casual mechanisms. This study will use a longitudinal cohort of children in Australia.

    This project will suit a student wanting to complete an honours degree with skills in statistics, epidemiology, or public health. Experience working with cohort data, R or SNPs would be helpful.

  • Due to current funding and immigration restrictions we are only ab le to accept domestic students.

    Increasing evidence suggests that irreversible, progressive lung disease begins in the very early years of life for patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) however; the exact mechanism(s) that drive this damage are still largely unknown. Risk factors for progressive lung disease are detectable in patients as early as three months of age. A significant limitation to early disease detection is the lack of feasible and sensitive measures available for use in very young patients. We aim to close this knowledge gap by using a new, innovative lung function technique that can easily and reliably measure lung function in very young children (<2 years of age).

    This project will involve participant recruitment and performing of lung function measurements on young children. A valid Blue Card is required. The successful candidate will have knowledge of respiratory system anatomy and physiology, experience in lung function testing, and excellent written and oral communication skills. A basic understanding of statistical methods is desirable.

  • Due to current funding and immigration restrictions we are only ab le to accept domestic students.

    Despite great advances in clinical care and survival rates in cystic fibrosis (CF), patients continue to suffer a decline in lung function that starts in mid-childhood and progresses throughout life. The Early Life Origins of CF project (‘ELO study’) aims to recruit and follow paediatric and adult patients (range 3 months – 30 years) from both QCH and TPCH for three years. This study will explore the mechanisms of early CF lung disease in an attempt to improve clinical outcome measures that are sensitive to early lung disease and disease progression across the CF life-stage.

    We are seeking a PhD student to work with our collaborators at CSIRO to aid in the development, optimization and validation of a safe magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) protocol and automated diagnostic tool for CF lung disease assessment. The successful candidate will assist it identifying and labelling key anatomical features and help to link image findings to CF disease characteristics and mechanisms i.e. bronchiectasis, mucus plugging. Analysis of images will be performed using a modified version of the PRAGMA-CF score developed for reporting early CF lung disease on chest CT scans. Our ideal candidate will have knowledge of cystic fibrosis (particularly respiratory symptoms and treatment), knowledge of respiratory system anatomy and physiology, excellent written and oral communications skills, a willingness to work as part of a multi-disciplinary collaborative team and maintain active collaborations with other labs and universities.