Welcome to the Otago School of Medical Sciences
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.
14 July 2016
The OSMS is holding its biennial photo exhibition in conjunction with the New Zealand International Science Festival. Staff and students from the OSMS submitted a total of 89 amazing images, ranging from fruit fly ovaries to sunsets on the Otago Harbour and even gorillas in the Republic of Congo. Last night, Professor Vernon Ward announced the winners at the prize giving function:
Best photo by a Student:
Winner: Leila Nicholson – Camping Under the Galactic Kiwi
Highly Commended: Safina Gadeock – Colon Folding Like There’s No Tomorrow
Best photo by a General Staff member:
Winner: Andrew McNaughton – Radish Seed Pods
Highly Commended: Fieke Neuman and Liane Sim – Histology Olympics
Best photo by an Academic Staff member:
Winner: Steve Kerr – Reaching for the Stars
2 Highly Commended:
Ruth Empson – Raspberry Beret
Grant Butt – Splash
Best photo with an ‘infectious disease research’ theme – Awarded by the Webster Centre:
Winner: Susie Warring – Bacterial Biofilm
Highly Commended: Vernon Ward – The Structure of Viruses
Best photo representing Te Ao Maori (the Maori World): Rachel Sizemore – Fire for a Hangi/Birthday Hangi
Best photo with a Neuroscience theme – Awarded by the Brain Health Research Centre: Megan Elder – Oh, The Places You’ll Go
Best photo with a ‘gut’ theme– Awarded by the Gut Health Network:
2 First Prizes
Safina Gadeock – Chrohn’s Colon: Eating mMy Gut In … Nom Nom Nom
Kristel De Ryck – When Life Hands You Lemons
Best photo with a genetics theme – Awarded by Genetics Otago: Mackenzie Lovegrove – Fruit Fly Ovaries
The award for the overall best photo went to Steve Kerr for Reaching for the Stars, a striking photo of a marine flatworm - see above.
The photos are on display in the Art Society Rooms in the Dunedin Railway Station until Sunday 16 July. Make sure you check them out!
Brain Research Supported by a Neurological Foundation Grant
12 July 2016
Researchers in the Otago of School of Medical Sciences have recently obtained funding from the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand to advance knowledge on two brain disorders, schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The funding details are:
Associate Professor Dorothy Oorschot ($190,383), Principal Investigator,
Department of Anatomy, Otago School of Medical Sciences
Title of research project: Opposite changes in midbrain dopamine circuitry in schizophrenia versus ADHD-like hyperactivity
(Measuring changes in brain circuitry to increase knowledge of the anatomical basis of schizophrenia and ADHD-like hyperactivity)
The relation between the anatomy of brain cell circuits and their functions is central to understanding information processing in the brain. A wealth of information exists about the brain disorders schizophrenia and ADHD, yet little is known about the microscopic changes in neural circuits that may contribute to the manifestations of each disorder. It is critical to elucidate the underlying causal mechanisms of schizophrenia and ADHD, in order to provide new rationales for targeted pharmacological treatment.
Associate Professor Dorothy Oorschot and colleagues, Professor David Bilkey (Psychology), Dr Louise Parr-Brownlie (Anatomy), Dr Stephanie Hughes (Biochemistry) and Dr Steve Seo (Anatomy), hypothesize that a major causal factor in both schizophrenia and ADHD is altered synaptic input onto specific midbrain dopamine neurons resulting in excessive or diminished release, respectively, of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Note that neurons in the brain can receive thousands of synaptic inputs from other neurons.
The team will combine a cutting-edge technology to selectively label inhibitory input neurons, and electron microscopy to identify excitatory inputs, onto midbrain dopamine neurons. This will enable quantitation of the structural changes that potentially underlie long-term changes in synaptic input. An understanding of these structural alterations and relationships, should they exist, will allow for a mechanism-driven approach to new opportunities for treatment.