Professor Allison Pettit

Professor

Mater Research Institute-UQ
Faculty of Medicine

Overview

Professor Pettit leads the Bones and Immunology Research Group at Mater Research Institute-UQ and is Director of Biomedical Research for Mater Research. Professor Pettit has led multidisciplinary research discovering intersecting biological mechanisms across the fields of immunology, rheumatology, cancer biology, haematology and bone biology. Professor Pettit is currently a UQ Amplify recipient associated with an ARC Future Fellowship, 2017-2020 and CIA on an NHMRC Ideas Grant, 2022-25. Major contributions led by Professor Pettit include the paradigm shifting discovery of a novel population of resident macrophages, osteal macrophages (osteomacs), and their role in promoting bone formation and bone regeneration after injury. Her team have published over 15 manuscripts based on this original discovery (with over 1400 citations) including translation of this basic research discovery toward eluciating novel disease mechanism. This also led to the novel discovery of bone marrow resident macrophage contributions to supporting haematopoietic stem cells niches and the key role that these cells play in protecting this vital niche from cancer therapies. Bone marrow and specifically haematopoietic stem cell damage is one of the most serious and life-threatening side effects of cancer therapies.

Professor Pettit's leadership and achievements have been recognised through multiple awards including the 2019 UQ Faculty of Medicine Leader of the Year (Academic), Women in Technology 2018 Life Sciences Outstanding Achievement Award and becoming a Fellow of the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research. Professor Pettit has been invited to give numerous presentations at national and international conferences including Seoul Symposium on Bone Health, Asia-Pacific League of Associations for Rheumatology Congress and a prestigious American Society of Bone and Mineral Research Meet-the-Professor session. Professor Pettit is and Associate Editor for the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, is an past Council member for the Australian and New Zealand Bone and Mineral Society, and chairs or serves on numerous committees including the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes Gender Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee. PhD candidates under Professor Pettit's supervision have all been supported by scholarships (including 2 x NHMRC), received numerous local and national awards (e.g. Dr Alexander, ASMR QLD Premier Postgraduate Award, 2011 and Dr Lena Batoon won the UQ Faculty of Medicine Graduate of the Year Award, 2021), all had high quality first author publications at completion and 2 received UQ Dean’s Commendations.

Research Impacts

  • Discovery that the transcription factor RelB is a critical molecular mediator of dendritic cell antigen presentation and extended this to show that RelB expressing dendritic cells have critical roles in the initiation and perpetuation of joint inflammation in inflammatory arthritis. These discoveries were used by my principal HDR supervisor (Professor Ranjeny Thomas; https://researchers.uq.edu.au/researcher/396) as the knowledge platform to develop the first vaccine therapy for rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Demonstration that RANKL is the essential and rate limiting cytokine required for osteoclast formation and focal bone erosion in inflammatory arthritis. This research output influenced pharmaceutical industry development of the blockbuster drug Denosumab.
  • Leadership of the paradigm shifting discovery of a novel population of resident macrophages, osteal macrophages (osteomacs), and their novel role in promoting osteoblastic bone formation and bone regeneration after injury. This has completely changed how the bone and mineral/orthopaedic research field views macrophage contributions to bone health and disease and has influence parallel fields including tissue regeneration and biomaterials.
  • Discovery that macrophages regulate haematopoietic stem cell (HSC) niche homeostasis. The landmark paper on which I am co-first author is a Web of Science highly cited paper (top 1% or research outputs) that has been cited by papers spanning 46 research fields. We have since extended this discovery to demonstrate that resident macrophage resilience to lethal radiation is essential for bone marrow recovery and successful HSC engraftment and haematopoietic reconstitution post-HSC transplantation (senior author manuscript in Blood, 2018).

Qualifications

  • PhD, The University of Queensland
  • BSc(Hons), Griffith University

Publications

  • Tseng, Hsu-Wen, Girard, Dorothée, Alexander, Kylie A., Millard, Susan M., Torossian, Frédéric, Anginot, Adrienne, Fleming, Whitney, Gueguen, Jules, Goriot, Marie-Emmanuelle, Clay, Denis, Jose, Beulah, Nowlan, Bianca, Pettit, Allison R., Salga, Marjorie, Genêt, François, Bousse-Kerdilès, Marie-Caroline Le, Banzet, Sébastien and Lévesque, Jean-Pierre (2022). Spinal cord injury reprograms muscle fibroadipogenic progenitors to form heterotopic bones within muscles. Bone Research, 10 (1) 22, 22. doi: 10.1038/s41413-022-00188-y

  • Keshvari, Sahar, Genz, Berit, Teakle, Ngari, Caruso, Melanie, Cestari, Michelle F., Patkar, Omkar L., Tse, Brian W. C., Sokolowski, Kamil A., Ebersbach, Hilmar, Jascur, Julia, MacDonald, Kelli P. A., Miller, Gregory, Ramm, Grant A., Pettit, Allison R., Clouston, Andrew D., Powell, Elizabeth E., Hume, David A. and Irvine, Katharine M. (2022). Therapeutic potential of macrophage colony-stimulating factor (CSF1) in chronic liver disease. Disease Models and Mechanisms, 15 (4) dmm049387. doi: 10.1242/dmm.049387

  • Tseng, Hsu‐Wen, Kulina, Irina, Girard, Dorothée, Gueguen, Jules, Vaquette, Cedryck, Salga, Marjorie, Fleming, Whitney, Jose, Beulah, Millard, Susan M., Pettit, Allison R., Schroder, Kate, Thomas, Gethin, Wheeler, Lawrie, Genêt, François, Banzet, Sébastien, Alexander, Kylie A. and Levesque, Jean‐Pierre (2021). Interleukin‐1 is overexpressed in injured muscles following spinal cord injury and promotes neurogenic heterotopic ossification. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 37 (3), 531-546. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.4482

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Available Projects

  • This Earmarked Scholarship project is aligned with a recently awarded Category 1 research grant. It offers you the opportunity to work with leading researchers and contribute to large projects of national significance.

    Hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) transplantation (HSCT) is a potentially curative treatment for blood cancers and other diseases and can supplement high-dose chemotherapy in treatment resistant solid tumours. HSCT associated risk factors and complications remain a significant barrier to decision to treat and are a major driver of associated health costs. Despite decades of HSCT protocol refinement, treatment related morbidity and mortality remain barriers to decision to treat using this strategy. We and others have demonstrated that bone marrow resident macrophages provide multifaceted support of haematopoiesis including instructing the specialized HSC niches. Our novel findings that bone marrow resident macrophages are resilient to a myeloablative radiation dose and, after HSCT, provide critical support to HSC engraftment and bone marrow reconstitution. This PhD project will work toward testing the hypothesis that resident macrophage resilience is a critical regenerative mechanism against bone marrow damaged caused by many types of myelosuppressive cancer therapies. Using preclinical approaches to generate novel knowledge, this PhD project will contribute to examining macrophage resilience to a broad range of cancer therapies and determine if a minimum threshold of macrophage resilience determine the difference between a tolerated versus lethal dose of cytotoxic therapies. Ultimately this research project is designed to inform development of novel treatment strategies to improve the safety of HSCT and reduce the side effects of a broad range of cancer treatments.

View all Available Projects

Publications

Book Chapter

  • Pettit, Allison R., Cavanagh, Lois, Boyce, Amanda, Padmanabha, Jagadish, Peng, Judy and Thomas, Ranjeny. (2007). Identification and isolation of synovial dendritic cells. Arthritis Research Methods and Protocols. (pp. 165-181) edited by Andrew P. Cope. Totowa, N.J., U.S.A.: Humana Press Inc.

  • Pettit, Allison R. and Gravallese, E. M. (2007). Osteoprotegerin. Contemporary Targeted Therapies in Rheumatology. (pp. 251-264) edited by Peter E. Lipsky and Josef S. Smolen. London, United Kingdom: Informa Healthcare.

  • Pettit, Allison R. and Gravellese, Ellen M. (2005). Pathogenesis of focal bone loss in inflammatory arthritis. Bone Disease in Rheumatology. (pp. 15-22) edited by Maricic, Michael and Gluck, Oscar S.. Arizona, USA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

  • Pettit, A. R. and Gravellese, E. M. (2003). Osteoprotegerin. Targeted therapies in rheumatology. (pp. 359-377) edited by Josef S. Smolen and Peter E. Lipsky. London & New York: Martin Dunitz / Taylor & Francis.

  • Pettit, A. R., Cavanagh, L. L. and Thomas, R. (2001). Identification and isolation of synovial dendritic cells. Dendritic Cell Protocols. (pp. 175-187) edited by S. P. Robinson and A. J. Stagg. Totowa USA: Humana Press.

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.

  • This Earmarked Scholarship project is aligned with a recently awarded Category 1 research grant. It offers you the opportunity to work with leading researchers and contribute to large projects of national significance.

    Hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) transplantation (HSCT) is a potentially curative treatment for blood cancers and other diseases and can supplement high-dose chemotherapy in treatment resistant solid tumours. HSCT associated risk factors and complications remain a significant barrier to decision to treat and are a major driver of associated health costs. Despite decades of HSCT protocol refinement, treatment related morbidity and mortality remain barriers to decision to treat using this strategy. We and others have demonstrated that bone marrow resident macrophages provide multifaceted support of haematopoiesis including instructing the specialized HSC niches. Our novel findings that bone marrow resident macrophages are resilient to a myeloablative radiation dose and, after HSCT, provide critical support to HSC engraftment and bone marrow reconstitution. This PhD project will work toward testing the hypothesis that resident macrophage resilience is a critical regenerative mechanism against bone marrow damaged caused by many types of myelosuppressive cancer therapies. Using preclinical approaches to generate novel knowledge, this PhD project will contribute to examining macrophage resilience to a broad range of cancer therapies and determine if a minimum threshold of macrophage resilience determine the difference between a tolerated versus lethal dose of cytotoxic therapies. Ultimately this research project is designed to inform development of novel treatment strategies to improve the safety of HSCT and reduce the side effects of a broad range of cancer treatments.