Welcome to the Otago School of Medical Sciences
14 June 2016
Professor Warren Tate has recently been awarded the Health Research Council Established Researcher Award and Dr Peter Mace was awarded one of the University's Early Career Awards for Distinction in Research.
Congratulations to these two researchers from the Department of Biochemistry!
Cans, cans, cans
13 June 2016
Our inaugural Cans per Capita competition was a great succes, with a total of 586 cans being donated.
The final results of the competition are below but of course the main winner is the Presbyterian Support Services Food Bank!
Thank you very much to everyone who contributed.
Lottery Health Research Equipment grant for A Chromatographic Purification System for Fluorescent and other Proteins
30 May 2016
Dr. Sigurd Wilbanks, from the Department of Biochemistry, was recently awarded a $81,000 Lottery Health Research Equipment grant for A Chromatographic Purification System for Fluorescent and other Proteins.
Biochemical research has moved on from "bucket" biochemistry, in which kilos of tissue were required for experiments, to single molecule studies in which the movements of a single enzyme or drug receptor can be tracked. This advance required both more efficient methods of purifying enzymes and other proteins as well as development of highly sensitive detection techniques, of which fluorescence is a mainstay. Fluorescence is the absorption and re-emission of light and always results in a change in colour of the light. To appreciate the advantage of a fluorescent label on an enzyme, just imagine trying to find glow-worms at night if they were not glowing! Most proteins are as dark as sand flies; addition of a fluorescent tag can make them light up like glow-worms. The new chromatographic system allows Dr. Wilbanks and other members of the Department to purify any protein, and to selectively track those tagged with a fluorescent dye. The system is applicable to practically any question involving proteins, which includes just about all of biology. Proteins purified on this system and tracked using its fluorescence detector will be used in projects ranging from basic understanding of protein maturation to design of new antibiotics.
Proteins can be tagged with a fluorescent dye either through creation of genetic fusions or by using chemical reactions, followed by separation of the protein of interest with its attached dye from unwanted side-products of the reaction. Dr. Wilbanks's group is using this approach to understand one of the quality control systems of the human body, called molecular chaperones. Incorrect maturation of proteins underlies many pathologies, most famously mad cow disease, but also Alzheimer's and cystic fibrosis. The molecular chaperones detect and repair or remove proteins that have failed to mature. Dr. Wilbanks's group has investigated their action in the test tube, and are now keenly interested in how they work in living cells. They have attached fluorescent dyes to molecular chaperones and tracked the signal under the microscope and in the test tube. Their next step is to exploit the fluorescent signal to track the molecular chaperones in the complex milieu of live cells, the biochemical equivalent of tracking a glow-worm in the forest. The improved purification ability of the system funded by the Lottery Health Grant is crucial to the preparation of proteins for the experiments in live cells. Fluorescent studies of how the molecular chaperones work in their native environment will shed light on how they help counteract diseases of protein maturation.
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.