Welcome to the Otago School of Medical Sciences
Timekeeping in the Neural Network Controlling Fertility
1 August 2016
Dr Richard Piet (Department of Physiology) was recently awarded $1,074,371 in funding by the Health Research Council for his work on Timekeeping in the neural network controlling fertility.
Fertility is governed by complex neuronal circuits in the hypothalamus, which converge onto the gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons. Dysregulation of these circuits are thought to be a fundamental mechanism in the pathophysiology of conditions of infertility. Infertility affects an estimated 10% of couples of reproductive age world-wide and has a significant impact on the well-being of affected couples. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common cause of female infertility, and is associated with ovulatory dysfunction, in addition to distressing symptoms such as abnormal menstrual bleeding, hirsutism, male-pattern baldness and acne.
Dr. Richard Piet and Department of Physiology colleague Dr. Rebecca Campbell hypothesized that regulation of the GnRH neuronal network by the central circadian clock, which plays a key role in timing the neuroendocrine events leading to ovulation, might be impaired in an experimental model that replicates the key features of PCOS. The research team will use state-of-the art neuroscience approaches to investigate the specific brain circuits involved in keeping time within the GnRH neuronal network under both physiological and pathological conditions.
It is anticipated that these studies will improve our understanding of the brain mechanisms involved in the control of reproductive function, and may open future new avenues for therapeutic strategies in treating infertility.
20 July 2016
Leila Nicholson’s photo Camping under the Galactic Kiwi was awarded the prize for the Best Photo by a Student at last week’s prize giving for the OSMS Photo Competition.
People from as far afield as Japan and France visited the exhibition and voted for their favourite photo. Camping under the Galactic Kiwi was also awarded the Public’s Choice Award and Leila’s other entries also proved very popular.
A random name was drawn from the votes and that person will receive a framed copy of their favourite photo, which was again Camping under the Galactic Kiwi...
Finding tools to investigate the anti-epileptic effects of cannabidiol
18 July 2016
Dr John Ashton was recently awarded funding from the Neurological Foundation for his research project on Finding tools to investigate the anti-epileptic effects of cannabidiol. It is a laboratory-based study to determine reliable methods for examining the effect of cannabidiol in epilepsy.
Many people will suffer from epilepsy at some time in their life, but a third of epilepsy patients are resistant to drug therapy. This is particularly true for childhood epilepsy, leading some parents in the USA to try using an atypical cannabinoid drug, cannabidiol (CBD) to treat their children. Some reports suggest children gain relief from treatment with oral CBD oil. However, this is anecdotal low quality evidence, and although early trials on adults appeared positive, these were again of low quality with a high risk that the results were due to bias, highlighting the need for high quality randomize controlled trials. But now in recently completed placebo controlled trials, GW Pharmaceuticals have reported promising results, with CBD reducing seizures significantly compared to patients receiving placebo in at least two types of childhood epilepsy. Although the current preclinical experiment evidence for CBD’s ability to reduce seizures is strong, the molecular target(s) upon which CBD acts in these experiments isn’t known. We therefore aim to use isolated brain slices that model epilepsy to investigate this question. Our first step will be to identify specific models in which in which CBD reduces the excitability of nerve cells. Any promising results will be followed with investigations into mechanisms in subsequent research, with the ultimate aim being to develop these leads into new drugs for drug resistant epilepsy.