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Physiology TV

An overview of Physiology at the University of Otago.

News

23rd June, 2017

Two HRC Project Grants awarded to Physiology Professor

Congratulations to Professor Allan Herbison who is the recipient of two Health Research Council of NZ (HRC) Project Grants totalling almost $2.6 million.

12th May, 2017

Julia Gouws (MSc student) receives another accolade for her research

After being awarded 1st= for the School of Biomedical Sciences Dean’s Prize for best 2016/17 Summer Scholarship Report recently, Julia has received another prestigious award this week.

5th May, 2017

Physiology PhD students take home prizes at the School Symposium

he School of Biomedical Sciences (BMS) Postgraduate Symposium was held on 3-4 May at the Otago Museum, and once again, our students had great success at the event.

30th March, 2017

Physiology student wins School’s Prize for Best Summer Scholarship report

Congratulations to Julia Gouws (supervisor Dr Karl Iremonger) who was awarded 1st= for the School of Biomedical Sciences Dean’s Prize for best Summer Scholarship Report for 2016/17.

30th March, 2017

Department of Physiology staff continue to be involved in fantastic Lab in a Box initiative

Lab in a Box is a mobile science laboratory, built in a 20 foot shipping container. It comes fully equipped with both science “gear” and people. Researchers and students from around New Zealand (or indeed around the World) are involved in this fantast

Next Event

3rd July, 2017

Aaron Korpal (PhD Final presentation, Department of Physiology)

 
PhD Programme.

News

23rd June, 2017

Two HRC Project Grants awarded to Physiology Professor

Two HRC Project Grants awarded to Physiology Professor

Congratulations to Professor Allan Herbison who is the recipient of two Health Research Council of NZ (HRC) Project Grants totalling almost $2.6 million.

Both projects provide 3-years of funding. Details of the projects are:

GnRH neuron control of ovulation ($1,167,633):

Nearly 40% of women suffering form infertility are unable to ovulate normally. While it is known that the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons in the brain control fertility, the molecular and cellular characteristics of the sub-population of GnRH neurons that drive ovulation are not established. This project aims to identify and characterize the specific GnRH neurons responsible for generating the "GnRH surge" that initiates ovulation. This will be achieved by implementing cutting-edge optogenetic neuroscience methodologies that will allow the electrical activity of "GnRH surge neurons" to be recorded. In addition, the use of a novel genetic cell activity detection strategy will allow the electrical membrane properties and gene expression profiles of GnRH surge neurons to be identified. These studies will generate an in-depth understanding of the key cells that drive ovulation and thereby provide a platform for developing therapeutic agents for fertility control.


Deciphering the dendron for fertility control ($1,092,337):

The gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons control fertility in all mammals including humans. We have recently discovered that GnRH neurons have a cellular process previously unknown in the central nervous system termed a "dendron". We propose that the unique features of the GnRH neuron dendron allow neural inputs to generate and modulate the pulsatile release of reproductive hormone levels in the blood. Correct levels of hormone pulsatility are critical for fertility. This project will use innovative neuroscience technologies to identify the neural inputs acting upon the dendron and then establish their physiological role in regulating the secretion of GnRH. Together, these studies will determine how this unique neuronal structure operates and provide a foundation for exploring the utility of dendron-targeted therapies for fertility control in humans.

12th May, 2017

Julia Gouws (MSc student) receives another accolade for her research

Julia Gouws (MSc student) receives another accolade for her research

After being awarded 1st= for the School of Biomedical Sciences Dean’s Prize for best 2016/17 Summer Scholarship Report recently, Julia has received another prestigious award this week.

Julia was one of 10 students selected to present their summer research scholarship work at the Otago Medical School Research Society (OMSRS) Summer Student Speaker Awards on 10th May. Julia won 1st Prize for her talk: “Determining Sexually Dimorphic Changes in CRH Neural Network Activity Induced by Stress Hormones”.

Well done Julia!

5th May, 2017

Physiology PhD students take home prizes at the School Symposium

Physiology PhD students take home prizes at the School Symposium

he School of Biomedical Sciences (BMS) Postgraduate Symposium was held on 3-4 May at the Otago Museum, and once again, our students had great success at the event.

Congratulations to the following Physiology PhD students who were awarded prizes:

30th March, 2017

Physiology student wins School’s Prize for Best Summer Scholarship report

Physiology student wins School’s Prize for Best Summer Scholarship report

Congratulations to Julia Gouws (supervisor Dr Karl Iremonger) who was awarded 1st= for the School of Biomedical Sciences Dean’s Prize for best Summer Scholarship Report for 2016/17.

The title of Julia’s summer research project was “Determining how chronically elevated levels of stress hormones affects neuronal excitability in female and male mice.”. The 10-week project involved using the genetically encoded calcium indicator GCaMP6f in order to determine how a model of chronic stress in mice affected CRH neuronal activity and whether there were sex differences in this activity.

Julia is now undertaking a one-year Masters in the Department.

30th March, 2017

Department of Physiology staff continue to be involved in fantastic Lab in a Box initiative

Department of Physiology staff continue to be involved in fantastic Lab in a Box initiative

Lab in a Box is a mobile science laboratory, built in a 20 foot shipping container. It comes fully equipped with both science “gear” and people. Researchers and students from around New Zealand (or indeed around the World) are involved in this fantast

We have recently had Dr Andrew Bahn and Associate Professor Rajesh Katare go to different destinations to promote science as part of the Lab in a Box programme.

Dr Bahn went to Timaru from 16-17 March and ran a kidney lab with the students. Assoc Prof Katare went to Rakaia on 24 March and introduced the students to cardiac physiology by measuring heart rate and blood pressure.

We have had great feedback from the teachers and the students. See some photos and comments on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/physiologyotago

9th March, 2017

Anatomy and Physiology at Otago now in the World University Rankings!

Anatomy and Physiology at the University of Otago have ranked 24th in the world in the latest QS World University Rankings.

This is the first year Anatomy and Physiology has been added as a subject to the QS rankings.

Well done to all our staff and students who have contributed to this success!

For the full list of Universities ranked for this subject, see https://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/university-subject-rankings/2017/anatomy-physiology

8th March, 2017

Key finding promises early detection of cardiovascular disease in diabetics

Key finding promises early detection of cardiovascular disease in diabetics

While in India to deliver the keynote address at JIPMER’s Karaikal's campus last week, Assoc Prof Rajesh Katare was interviewed by one of India’s leading newspapers, The Hindu.

To see the full article about Assoc Prof Katare’s exciting research, please see http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/key-finding-promises-early-detection-of-cardiovascular-disease-in-diabetics/article17413731.ece

3rd March, 2017

Physiology researcher awarded Lottery Health Research Project Grant

Physiology researcher awarded Lottery Health Research Project Grant

Congratulations to Associate Professor Rajesh Katare who was awarded a research project grant of $88,246 over two years.

The project (with Associate Investigator Professor Michael Williams from the Department of Medicine) is entitled “Circulating microRNAs as prognostic indicator of ischemic heart disease”.

Patients with chronic ischaemic heart disease (IHD) require regular follow-up to monitor progression of the disease and response to treatment. Currently, apart from echocardiography which requires patients visiting a specialty centre which is expensive, there is no other test available to precisely monitor the heart function during regular follow-up. In this study, they aim to test whether changes in the level of circulating microRNAs reflect changes in heart function, thereby making them a potent independent prognostic marker to understand progression of IHD. Results from this study will confirm the specificity and sensitivity of the circulating microRNAs in accurately reflecting the functional state of the diseased heart. In long term, this could result in the development of a novel biomarker assay to test the prognosis of IHD.

23rd February, 2017

Cycling event raises funds for heart research

Cycling event raises funds for heart research

The Department of Physiology has once again raised significant funds for a charity to its heart.

Last week the Department held its second annual South Island Cycle Challenge at the Wall Street Mall to raise funds for the Heart Foundation – New Zealand’s leading independent funder of heart research.

It saw about 40 teams from Otago departments and Dunedin businesses pedalling to clock up as many kilometres as possible in 10 minutes on an exercise bike. Those kilometres were then added to a map of New Zealand to try and “cycle” from Dunedin to Haast.

"It was also a great way to raise awareness of heart disease - having people doing exercise over the three hour period!".

One of the organisers, Physiology Departmental Administrator and PA to the Head of Department, Tracey Fleet says this year’s event was held to coincide with the Heart Foundation’s Annual Appeal day and was once again very popular.

“We have a good relationship with the Heart Foundation and our Department has been fortunate to gain a lot of funding from them over the years, so we were happy to help,” Mrs Fleet says. “It was also a great way to raise awareness of heart disease - having people doing exercise over the three hour period!”

In addition, Physiology PhD student Lorna Daniels attempted her own challenge – to do 1,000 burpees over the course of the event.

“It added a real buzz to the event, and she did it in just under three hours - an incredible achievement.”

Currently the event has raised around $2,500, with a final tally to be calculated in several weeks once all of the donations are in. If you would like to donate go to: https://give.everydayhero.com/nz/south-island-cycle-challenge-2017

(From the Otago Bulletin, Thursday, 23 February 2017)

20th December, 2016

Physiology staff recognised in School of Biomedical Sciences Awards 2016

Three staff from the Department of Physiology received awards at the ceremony on 14th December.

Associate Professor Pat Cragg’s Service to the School Award recognises her distinguished service over an extended period and her many contributions to the School. Pat has been a member of the Department of Physiology and the School for 40 years, including being Head of Department for 12 years, and more recently, Acting Dean and Deputy Dean of the School.

Congratulations also to Andrew Barlow who received the Distinguished Professional Practice Fellow/Teaching Fellow Award, and to Dr Daryl Schwenke, who received the Pasifika Research Award.

For a full list of recipients, see the Otago Bulletin: http://www.otago.ac.nz/otagobulletin/people/otago629589.html.

5th December, 2016

Breast cancer test wins 2016 Translational Research Grant

Congratulations to Professor Alison Heather who has been awarded the $50,000 grant from the Division of Health Sciences to assist her with the development of a new bioassay to detect estrogenic compounds in blood samples.

For the full article featured on the University of Otago Bulletin, see http://www.otago.ac.nz/otagobulletin/people/otago628307.html

3rd November, 2016

Major Marsden funding success for Physiology researchers

The latest Royal Society of NZ Marsden Fund round has awarded 3-year project grants to three Department of Physiology researchers.

Congratulations to Professor Colin Brown, Professor Allan Herbison and Dr Alex Tups who were awarded grants. Their projects are 3 of 23 projects awarded to researchers at the University of Otago.

A brief outline of the projects are below:

Professor Colin Brown (Physiology):Drinking for two: Central resetting of water balance in pregnancy and lactation ($825,000)

Pregnant women retain water during pregnancy to ensure an adequate blood supply for the developing baby and to prepare for milk production during lactation. Water is retained by increasing the secretion of vasopressin, a hormone that promotes water reabsorption in the kidneys. Normally, dilution of body salts by water retention decreases vasopressin secretion, but this doesn’t happen in pregnancy or lactation. While it has been known since the 1980s that altered vasopressin secretion resets water balance during pregnancy, the mechanisms that cause this resetting are still unknown. Our new data show that vasopressin-secreting cells are more sensitive to salt during lactation and so this might be the mechanism that resets water balance during pregnancy. Therefore, we will determine how vasopressin cells increase their responsiveness to salt in pregnancy to prepare women for successful pregnancy and lactation.

Professor Allan Herbison (Physiology): In vivo gene editing with CRISPR to define estrogen feedback in the brain ($825,000)

Circulating levels of the ovarian hormone estrogen act on the brain to control fertility. A group of brain cells called the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons are responsible for controlling fertility in all mammals including humans. At present, the cellular pathway through which estrogen modulates the activity of GnRH neurons in unknown. This project intends to determine precisely which brain cells are responsible for detecting estrogen levels in the blood and transmitting this information to the GnRH neurons. We will use a novel application of CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing to delete estrogen receptors from GABA, glutamate or kisspeptin neurons located in two specific brain regions of the mouse. This research will develop world-leading in vivo gene editing technology for neuroscience within New Zealand and elucidate the mechanism of "estrogen feedback" to the GnRH neurons. This information will underpin the development of new strategies for helping infertile couples as well as the development of safer contraceptive agents.

Dr Alexander Tups (Physiology): Hypothalamic Inflammation: Cause of leptin resistance and obesity? ($795,000)

Leptin, made by fat cells, is a hormone that usually tells the brain to stop eating. When people accumulate fat, leptin in the blood reaches very high unhealthy levels which make the brain unresponsive to the hormone. The loss of leptin action leads to the development of obesity and associated diseases such as type 2 diabetes. Saturated fats from a Western style diet lead to inflammation of the brain. This grant will explore whether this so called brain inflammation caused by dietary saturated fats is the cause of the loss of leptin responses and thereby the trigger for the development of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

For a full list of the grants awarded, see http://www.otago.ac.nz/news/news/otago625584.html

(Text from the University of Otago website)

Click here to read the ODT interview with the CNE recipients of this funding round.

23rd September, 2016

High calibre of teachers in Physiology reflected in OUSA Teaching Awards 2016

High calibre of teachers in Physiology reflected in OUSA Teaching Awards 2016

The Otago University Student’s Association Teaching Awards 2016 were held on 21st September.

Dr Matt Bevin was one of five finalists for the 2016 Teaching Awards and was awarded runner-up on the night - a phenomenal achievement. Dr Bevin teaches into the medical curriculum as a main focus, but also makes key contributions to other professional programmes through involvement in HUBS 192 and PHSL251 papers. His students constantly praise his teaching through student evaluations year after year.

Two other Department of Physiology lecturers were also acknowledged at the Awards - Drs Jeff Erickson and Daryl Schwenke were both nominated for awards.

1st September, 2016

Success for Physiology PhD students at Queenstown Research Week

Success for Physiology PhD students at Queenstown Research Week

We have had a number of students win prizes at Queenstown Research Week which has been held this week in Nelson (not Queenstown this year!).

Congratulations to the following students who have won prizes:

QMB Heart Disease Satellite Meeting:



Medical Sciences Congress Meeting:

30th August, 2016

Physiology researchers lead the way in gaining Heart Foundation funding

The Department of Physiology have been awarded one of only two project grants, and two out of three small project grants in the latest Heart Foundation research funding round.

Congratulations to:
Project Grant:


Small Project Grants:

For the full list of recipients, see http://www.otago.ac.nz/otagobulletin/research/otago619937.html

12th August, 2016

Professor Alison Heather - Winner of the Women's division Samoa Warrior Half-Ironman

Professor Alison Heather - Winner of the Women's division Samoa Warrior Half-Ironman

The Samoa Observer says professors do not often compete in multi-sport events in Samoa and Otago’s Alison Heather even ended up winning the women’s section of the Warrior Race.

Read the article at http://www.otago.ac.nz/otagobulletin/people/otago618654.html

14th July, 2016

Winner of OMSRS Research Staff Award from Department of Physiology

Congratulations to Emmet Power, Postdoctoral Fellow in Assoc Prof Ruth Empson’s laboratory, who won the Otago Medical School Research Society (OMSRS) Research Staff Award on 6th July.

Emmet’s talk was entitled “Altered metabotropic glutamate receptor activity in early spinocerebellar ataxia type 1”.

Emmet’s research is based on a disease called Spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 (SCA1). SCA1 is a motor disorder primarily affecting a region of the brain called the cerebellum. Within the cerebellum, SCA1 causes degeneration of the Purkinje neurons (PNs), which are the sole output cells of the cerebellar cortex. Emmet’s research concentrates on the role metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) play in the progression of, and symptoms associated with, SCA1. Emmet has discovered that mGluR receptors, expressed on PNs, are over-activated in the early stages of SCA1. This over-activation contributes to the behavioural symptoms of SCA1, at least in the early stages of the disease, and these symptoms can be reversed when the over-activation is prevented. This research highlights mGluRs as a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of SCA1, meriting further investigation.

14th July, 2016

Physiology academic part of newly formed Otago Pacific Academic Staff Caucus

Dr Daryl Schwenke, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Physiology, is part of this Caucus which was formally launched on 11th July.

For full details on the members of the Caucus and their aspirations as a group, please see the full article in the Otago Bulletin - http://www.otago.ac.nz/otagobulletin/people/otago617173.html

30th June, 2016

Centre for Neuroendocrinology (CNE) PhD Prize awarded to Physiology student

Centre for Neuroendocrinology (CNE) PhD Prize awarded to Physiology student

Congratulations to Mauro Batista da Silva (supervisor Dr Rebecca Campbell) who was awarded the CNE PhD Prize on 28th June.

The CNE PhD prize is open to all CNE 2nd year PhD students. The top three 2nd Year PhD students selected by the CNE Principal Investigators gave an oral presentation with an additional 10 minutes for questions. One of the judges was the CNE Lecturer for 2016 - Prof. Valerie Simonneaux of the Institut des Neurosciences Cellulaires et Intégratives, University of Strasbourg.

Mauro’s research is focused on trying to unveil neuronal and endocrine mechanisms underlying the pathophysiology of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), which is the main cause of female infertility throughout the world. To date, Mauro has discovered in an animal model of the syndrome that, even before the onset of puberty, the brain presents circuitry abnormalities and these are correlated with a disruption in female fertility in adulthood. Although this scenario looks negative, Mauro has also found that those altered brain circuits can be reversed by blocking the high androgen levels in the syndrome and, ultimately, restore fertility.

22nd June, 2016

Research milestone for Professor

Research milestone for Professor

With his most recent publication (1 June 2016) Prof. Allan Herbison, Department of Physiology, has reached the very significant landmark of 200 peer-reviewed journal article publications.

This achievement is outstanding - not only in quantity, but in quality and impact. Professor Herbison has over 13,000 citations and an H index of 64.

The three most highly-cited publications from work undertaken in Physiology have been those working with Seong-Kyu Han (1), Rebecca Campbell and Rob Porteous (2), and Jenny Clarkson (3).

1. Han SK, Gottsch ML, Lee KJ, Popa SM, Smith JT, Jakawich SK, Clifton DK, Steiner RA, Herbison AE. (2005) Activation of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons by kisspeptin as a neuroendocrine switch for the onset of puberty. J Neurosci 25, 11349-11356. [662 citations]

2. Wintermantel T*, Campbell RE*, Porteous R, Bock D, Gröne HJ, Todman MG, Korach KS, Greiner E, Perez CA, Schütz G, Herbison AE. (2006) Definition of estrogen receptor pathway critical for estrogen positive feedback to gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons and fertility. Neuron 52, 271-280. [355 citations]

3. Clarkson J, Herbison AE. (2006) Postnatal development of kisspeptin neurons in mouse hypothalamus; sexual dimorphism and projections to gonadotropin-releasing hormone neurons. Endocrinology, 147, 5817-5825. [510 citations]

15th June, 2016

Department of Physiology staff awarded competitive HRC funding

Department of Physiology staff awarded competitive HRC funding

The Department has had great success in the latest Health Research Council (HRC) of New Zealand funding round with two staff members being awarded 3-year project grants

Professor Allan Herbison (with Named Investigator Dr Richard Piet) has been awarded $1,121,058 for the project “Generating pulses with KnDY neurons”. The brain controls the levels of hormones circulating in the blood. The fertility hormones are secreted in a pulsatile manner that is essential for normal reproduction in humans. While it is known that the brain generates pulsatile hormone secretion, how it does this has remained a complete mystery. This project aims to build on a recent exciting discovery in the laboratory that has given us a clue as to the origin of fertility hormone pulsatility. Using genetically-manipulated mouse models and the very latest techniques in neuroscience, Prof Herbison’s lab aims to elucidate and characterize the role of a small distinct group of brain cells they believe to be responsible for generating pulses of fertility hormones in the blood. Understanding how the brain controls fertility will lead to the development of new therapies for treating infertile couples in addition to new methods of contraception.

Dr Richard Piet (with Named Investigator Dr Rebecca Campbell) has been awarded $1,074,371 for the project “Timekeeping in the neural network controlling fertility”. Fertility is controlled by a complex neuronal network in the brain that drives the activity of the gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons. This project aims to examine the mechanisms underlying the regulation of this neuronal network by the central biological clock in females. Dr Piet’s lab will use state-of-the art experimental approaches in genetically-modified mouse models to dissect the specific brain circuits involved in keeping time within the GnRH neural network under both physiological and pathological conditions. They anticipate their studies will provide new information of the brain mechanisms involved in the control of reproductive function, and may open new avenues for therapeutic strategies for treating infertility in the clinic.

Dr Karl Iremonger and Dr Alex Tups were also Named Investigators on two separate successful projects with Principal Investigators from the Department of Anatomy.

For the full list of project grants awarded, please see the University of Otago website.

17th May, 2016

Department of Physiology researchers take part in Lab in a Box

Department of Physiology researchers take part in Lab in a Box

Last week, students at East Otago High School got to experience the exciting phenomenon of “Lab in a Box”.

Lab in a Box (LIAB) is a mobile science laboratory, built in a 20 foot shipping container. It has a huge range of scientific equipment for students and groups to use. LIAB is for rural communities in particular and it is aimed mainly for primary and intermediate aged school children.

Dr Andrew Bahn and Assoc Prof Ruth Empson from the Department of Physiology visited East Otago High School on 11th and 12th May respectively. Dr Bahn hosted a LIAB Kidney Lab where he led a session of Year 9-12 students on the importance of the kidney in human physiology. Students were able to compare different (fake) urine samples and measure blood and glucose presence, pH levels and specific gravity. They were able to compare results and give a diagnosis on the possible cause of the presence of glucose on urine and the consequence of an unhealthy diet.

Assoc Prof Empson led a session on cerebellar (brain) adaption. Year 10-12 students performed a cerebellar task where they disrupted the visual field with a pair of prism goggles. They then threw balls in a bucket, before and after wearing the prism goggles, then compared the results to experience, at first hand, the wonders of the brain and its capacity for adaptation. She also tested two Senior Science students at the School who volunteered to be part of a Lottery Health funded project that is using a newly developed Android App to test cerebellar adaptation in the Community.

The Department has already been involved with LIAB, when Dr Rajesh Katare went to Twizel Area School in March for a Family Fun Science Exploration for Year 0-13 students.

(Information from the LIAB website - to see what other events LIAB is involved in, see ( https://labinabox.nz)

9th May, 2016

Physiology PhD students win the top prizes at School Symposium

The Otago School of Medical Sciences (OSMS) Postgraduate Symposium was held on 4-5 May at the Otago Museum, and our Department of Physiology students had great success at the event.

There were a number of prizes, with the winners of the two top prizes (Best Poster and Best Presentation) being invited to attend the University of Queensland Postgraduate Symposium in Brisbane later this year.

We are pleased to announce that two Physiology PhD students took out the two top prizes! Congratulations to:

2nd May, 2016

Physiology Summer Research Students awarded OMRF Renshaw Prize

Congratulations to Nigaah Khan (supervisor Dr Jeff Erickson) and Isabelle van Hout (supervisors Assoc Profs Grant Butt and Michael Schultz).

Nigaah and Isabelle have been awarded the Otago Medical Research Foundation (OMRF) Summer Research Renshaw Prize for best report submitted by an OMRF-funded summer research student at the end of their project. This is decided by the OMRF Scientific Committee, and this year there were two winners - both from the Department of Physiology!

19th April, 2016

Lottery Health Research funding awarded to Physiology staff

Lottery Health Research funding awarded to Physiology staff

Congratulations to Department of Physiology staff members who were awarded funding from the Lottery Grants Board to support studies focusing on improving New Zealanders' health.

The following project grants were awarded to Department of Physiology staff:

Setting out every morning to hunt for the unknown - and finding it! What could be more fascinating?

Michel Herde - PhD Student