Welcome to the Otago School of Medical Sciences
Mechanism of the exacerbation of influenza virus pathogenesis in metabolic and cardiovascular disorders
16 May 2016
Dr Matloob Husain from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology was recently awarded a $45,000 Lottery Health Research Project grant for his project titled Mechanism of the exacerbation of influenza virus pathogenesis in metabolic and cardiovascular disorders.
Influenza virus continues to cause regular seasonal flu epidemics and occasional pandemics, which seriously impact global public health and economy. Besides age and chronic respiratory diseases, metabolic and cardiovascular disorders such as type 2 diabetes and ischemic heart disease are other risk factors that contribute to severity of flu, leading to hospitalization and even death. The combined burden of flu, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases affects millions of people worldwide annually. A defect in a cellular process called acetylation independently contributes to all three diseases. Using respiratory tissues from diabetic and ischemic heart diseased mice, this study aims to investigate whether dysregulation of host histone deacetylases (HDACs), the enzymes that regulate acetylation, plays a role in the exacerbation of influenza virus pathogenesis in metabolic and cardiovascular disorders. The research outcomes will help develop novel therapeutic interventions against the combined burden of three truly globally-prevalent human diseases.
This study will be carried out in collaboration with Dr Rajesh Katare from the Department of Physiology.
Governor-General visits Lab-in-a-Box
11 May 2016
Sir Jerry Mateparae, Governor-General of New Zealand, visited Lab-in-a-Box outside the Otago Museum yesterday.
Lab-in-a-Box is a fully-contained mobile science training laboratory in a shipping container. It is taking practical science to schools in remote areas which are not equipped with laboratories or specialist science teachers.
Click here to read more about the Governor-General’s visit to Lab-in-a-Box.
Successful Postgraduate Symposium
9 May 2016
The OSMS held its 2016 Postgraduate Symposium on 4 and 5 May at the Otago Museum. Professor Kirill Alexandrov, from the Institute of Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland, opened the event on Wednesday night with an inspiring talk titled Synthetic Biology and the Principal Agent Problem. The lecture was attended by around 120 staff and students and even more people joined in for the poster session where thirty-three postgraduate students presented their research.
On Thursday, Dr Carl Stephan from the University of Queensland’s School of Biomedical Sciences kicked the day off with a fascinating talk about forensic craniofacial superimposition. In total, 25 students presented their research on topics ranging from the molecular basis of bulbing in onions to the association of ferritin with serum urate and gout.
During the morning tea break He Waka Kōtuia, the combined Kapa Haka group from King’s and Queens High Schools, gave a heartwarming performance.
This year six brave students registered to give PechaKucha style talks. PechaKucha is a presentation style in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each (6 minutes and 40 seconds in total, slides are on a timer!). Slides are made up of predominantly images with less than 10 words on each slide.
Here is an overview of the winners and the titles of their posters/talks:
- First Poster Prize: Oby Ebenebe, PhD student in the Department of Physiology, Measurement of CaMKII expression and 17β-Estradiol- induced calcification in a mouse model of atherosclerosis.
- Second Poster Prize: Sam Norton, PhD student in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, IL-6 impacts macrophage phenotype in human colorectal cancer.
- First PechaKucha Talk Prize: Kirtsen Ward-Hartstonge, PhD student in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Effector regulatory T cells are associated with disease-free survival in colorectal cancer.
- Second PechaKucha Talk Prize: Shirley Shen, MSc student from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Cell signalling in T cells from patients with colorectal cancer in response to IL-2 and IL-7.
- First Standard Talk Prize – and overall best talk: Mauro da Silva, PhD student in the Department of Physiology, Investigating the development of altered brain wiring in a mouse model of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
- Second Standard Talk Prize: Hannah Hampton, PhD student in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Mode of action of a widespread Type IV toxin-antitoxin phage abortive infection resistance system.
- Third Standard Talk Prize: Kiel Hards, PhD student in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Molecular side effects of the anti-tubercular therapeutic Bedaquiline.
Oby and Mauro will be representing the OSMS at a similar symposium at the University of Queensland later in the year.
Many thanks to everyone who participated and attended. A special thank you to the postgraduate students who helped organise and chair the event.
Elucidation of the role of iron homeostasis in gout susceptibility
3 May 2016
Dr Cushla McKinney from the Department of Biochemistry was recently awarded $51,000 from the Lotteries Health Board for her Elucidation of the role of iron homeostasis in gout susceptibility project.
Gout occurs when immune cells react to crystals of uric acid that form in the joints when there is too much urate in the blood. Drugs used to treat gout act to lower urate concentrations but don’t work well for many people, and for the past few years I have working with Professor Tony Merriman to find genes that influence how people respond to urate. We have identified a specific DNA variation that is much more common in gout patients than healthy people and is near a gene that makes a protein that allows cells to take up iron. We suspect too much iron in the blood or immune cells may make them react more strongly to urate and are going to test whether this variation alters how immune cells absorb iron and/or respond to urate crystals. We are also looking for variations in other iron-related genes that alter gout risk. The hope is that this research could identify a new therapeutic approach for patients that don’t respond to current treatments.