Welcome to the Otago School of Medical Sciences
Working towards improving the vaccine against Mycobacterium Tuberculosis
24 October 2014
Tuberculosis remains a global threat to public health, especially in the era of HIV infection and increasing drug resistance. The current vaccine, BCG, induces incomplete protection; despite being available for almost 100 years, it has failed to control tuberculosis. Therefore a better vaccine against Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis, is required.
A unique problem in developing a vaccine against Mycobacterium tuberculosis is how to induce better protection than natural infection. Patients who have been treated for tuberculosis are at increased risk of reinfection, suggesting their immune responses are not protective. Importantly, however, M. tuberculosis exposure only results in infection in some, but not all individuals. Among those who are highly exposed but persistently uninfected are cases of early clearance – where M. tuberculosis is successfully eradicated, most likely by innate immune defenses, before an adaptive immune response develops. In this study we will investigate the innate immune cells associated with early clearance.
Using an existing large-scale case contact field study in Bandung, Indonesia, we will identify highly exposed but uninfected individuals to investigate the mechanism of early clearance. Specifically, we will investigate the role of different innate immune cells in early clearance. Identification of innate immune cell populations responsible for early clearance will enable the development of novel vaccination and therapeutic strategies.
This study is a collaboration between Dr James Ussher (Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Otago), Professor Philip Hill and Dr Ayesha Verrall (Centre for International Health, University of Otago), and the Universitas Padjadjaran, Bandung, Indonesia.
From Maternal Health to Mental Health
21 October 2014
Dr Christine Jasoni was recently awarded $9,500 in Dean's Bequest funding for a project investigating Nfix in the differentiation of the hypothalamic neurons that regulate body weight.
Was your mother's health during pregnancy to blame if you feel awkward at parties? Or can't stop eating those fatty foods? These may seem odd questions. But recent studies suggest that our mother's health when she was pregnant with us can have an uncanny influence on our behaviour.
Sometimes maternal health problems can come about from voluntary activities, such as drinking or smoking. In these cases, fortunately science has already determined the risks to both the mother and her child, and so we all know that pregnant women shouldn't do these things.
But what about health issues that a woman may not be able to control? Things like gestational diabetes, obesity, stress, flu? Turns out that each of these can increase her baby's risk of behavioural abnormalities later in its life, including autism, anxiety, eating disorders, and schizophrenia. Since we have little control over whether a women experiences any of these health problems during pregnancy, it is critical that we understand how they increase risk to her offspring's health.
This is exactly the aim of our research! We use rodents as our model of choice because their pregnancy and brain development are remarkably similar to our own. And of course we can examine the brains of the fetuses and the newborns to look for changes. We are looking to see whether fundamental processes in brain development - neurogenesis (the birth of nerve cells) and neural circuit formation - are altered when a mother's health is not optimal.
Our goals are to identify which maternal factors negatively impact healthy fetal brain development, to discover markers that can be used to predict potential neurobehavioral disorders, and to provide research-informed guidelines for healthy pregnancy.
To find out more about Dr Jasoni’s research, visit the website of the Laboratory of Developmental Neuroscience.
Publicity Trifecta for Professor Frank Griffin
20 October 2014
Professor Frank Griffin's work on Johne's Disease has been profiled recently in Farmers Weekly, Country Wide Magazine, and Dairy Export News.
You can read more on the website of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.
Two OUMSA Teaching Excellence Awards for Dr Heather Brooks
10 October 2014
For the 6th year in a row, Dr Heather Brooks has been voted Best Lecturer by second-year OUMSA students. She has also received the award from third year students yet again.
Click here to read the article on the website of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.