University of Otago.Department of Physiology.Department of Physiology.

Physiology TV

An overview of Physiology at the University of Otago.


9th February, 2018

Dahlia based diabetes drug developed by Physiology researcher ready for human trials

In partnership with Plant and Food Research, researchers will soon begin human trials of a drug made from dahlias.

9th January, 2018

Otago breakthrough in diabetic heart disease

The molecule responsible for heart disease in diabetics has been identified by University of Otago researchers, greatly improving chances of survival.

13th November, 2017

Otago study could mean hope for infertile couples

Crucial new information about how the brain controls fertility has been unlocked by University of Otago researchers, with their findings just published in prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

13th November, 2017

Phenomenal success for Physiology researchers in latest Marsden funding round

Four 3-year project grants were awarded to Department of Physiology researchers in this year’s Marsden Fund - totalling over $3.8M.

25th October, 2017

Charlotte Steel, BSc (Hons) NEUR student in the Department has gained a Cambridge Rutherford Memorial PhD Scholarship

Our congratulations to Charlotte who is currently completing a BSc (Hons) degree in Neuroscience in the Department of Physiology with supervisor Assoc Prof Phil Sheard.

Next Event

26th February, 2018

Rachel Lund (1-yr PhD Presentation)

PhD Programme.


Unless stated otherwise, Departmental Seminars are held in the Hercus D'Ath Lecture Theatre at 13:00 on the day specified.

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Department of Physiology

Monday, 26th February 2018 - Hercus d'Ath Lecture Theatre at 13:00.

Rachel Lund (1-yr PhD Presentation)

Exploring serum estrogen receptor α and –β bioactivity as a prognostic tool for breast cancer.

Estrogen receptor α and –β  bioactivity of serum from breast cancer patients may be a useful, but largely overlooked measurement for predicting breast cancer risk in a clinical setting. Currently, serum estradiol (E2) levels are measured through radioimmunoassays (RIA) and used as a prognostic marker in breast cancer patients due to the established correlation between high E2 levels and breast cancer risk (Hankinson & Eliassen, 2007). However, it has been previously shown that high levels of ERα and –β bioactivity are associated with breast cancer and is a more reliable predictor of breast cancer risk compared to E2 levels alone (Widschwendter et al., 2009; Lim et al., 2014). Importantly, this correlation between high ER bioactivity and breast cancer risk was evident more than 2 years prior to diagnosis (Fourkala et al., 2011). Therefore, my PhD is focusing on developing ERα and –β bioassays for medical purposes as a reliable tool to measure ERα and –β bioactivity in serum samples received from breast cancer patients.

Department of Physiology

Monday, 5th March 2018 - Hercus d'Ath Lecture Theatre at 13:00.

Dr Michelle Munro, Department of Physiology

Myocyte organisation and cardiac function - the role of RyR and the junction

The generation of the heart beat is reliant on the signalling of calcium throughout the cardiomyocytes, which needs to be synchronised both within and between cells for efficient contraction of the heart. Structurally, this synchronisation is aided by the presence of invaginations of the plasma membrane throughout the cell, known as transverse tubules (t-tubules). One of the key proteins involved in cardiac calcium signalling is the ryanodine receptor - RyR. RyR is a calcium channel which releases calcium from the intracellular calcium store - the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR), which in healthy conditions creates the cell-wide increase in cytosolic calcium needed for cellular contraction. In cardiomyocytes, RyR form clusters at the dyad, or junction, a region formed by the close association of the SR and t-tubule membranes. In heart disease and failure, t-tubule and junctional organisation become disrupted, and RyR function can become dysregulated. This can result in reduced contractility of the heart or the generation of arrhythmias. In this seminar, a range of studies will be covered which investigate how RyR and junctional organisation are altered in human and animal models of heart disease and failure, as well as the impact on cardiac function. This will include the application of different imaging techniques, including multi-colour confocal and super-resolution imaging.

Department of Physiology

Monday, 12th March 2018 - Hercus d'Ath Lecture Theatre at 13:00.

Dr Martin Fronius, Department of Physiology


Department of Physiology

Monday, 19th March 2018 - Hercus d'Ath Lecture Theatre at 13:00.

Matt Hall, 1-yr PhD Presentation, Department of Physiology

Swings and Roundabouts: An electrophysiological approach to lithium therapy in bipolar disorder

Oscillatory phenomena characterise human brain function at all levels, from the molecular and cellular, to neuronal networks and beyond. Bipolar disorder affects more than 50,000,000 individuals worldwide and is characterised by extreme mood oscillation (between manic and depressive states). Lithium is the first line treatment for bipolar disorder, yet remains poorly understood after >50 years as a pharmaceutical treatment. Combining electrophysiological techniques in rodent brain slices with EEG analyses in healthy human volunteers, we aim to present a model of lithium therapy in which modulation of the fundamental determinants of neuronal activity - membrane ion currents – impacts oscillation through all levels of brain function, culminating in the stabilisation of mood in bipolar patients.

Department of Physiology

Monday, 26th March 2018 - Hercus d'Ath Lecture Theatre at 13:00.

Dr Carol Bussey, Department of Physiology

Adrenergic signalling in diabetic cardiac dysfunction

Cardiac complications are the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the large population of type 2 diabetic patients. Adrenergic signalling is key for regulating cardiac function, and is known to be disrupted in diabetes. I will discuss alterations in adrenergic receptor sensitivity, increases in sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve activity and explore the mechanisms through which chronic beta-blockade can repair cardiac function in the type 2 Zucker Diabetic Fatty rat.

Department of Physiology

Monday, 9th April 2018 - Hercus d'Ath Lecture Theatre at 13:00.

Nilanjan Ghosh, 1-yr PhD Presentation, Department of Physiology

Therapeutic modulation of microRNAs (miRs) to prevent/treat diabetic cardiomyopathy

The impact of diabetes on the development of vascular disease have been established earlier but non-ischemic cardiac complications associated with diabetes such as diabetic cardiomyopathy has received fewer attention. MicroRNAs (miRs) have recently been evolved as a key role player in diabetic heart disease. Abnormal regulation of cardiac-specific miRs lays foundation to the development of structural and functional deterioration in the later stages of the disease. Based on this evidence my project aims to therapeutically modulate miRs with the aim to prevent/treat diabetic cardiomyopathy. In particular my project will be targeting on two such miRs (miR-320 and -29a) that are abundantly expressed in cardiomyocytes. In my PhD I will aim to modulate the expression level of both these miRs using established "Locked Nucleic Acid (LNA)" system or the newly emerging CRISPR/C2c2 system. The results will lay foundation for the development of new strategies in the treatment of diabetic cardiomyopathy.

Department of Physiology

Monday, 30th April 2018 - Hercus d'Ath Lecture Theatre at 13:00.

(i) Aisha Sati & (ii) Sahib Rasulov, 1-yr PhD Presentation, Department of Physiology


Department of Physiology

Monday, 28th May 2018 - Hercus d'Ath Lecture Theatre at 13:00.

(i) Bradley Jamieson & (ii) Shalini Kumar, 1-yr PhD Presentation, Department of Physiology


Department of Physiology

Monday, 11th June 2018 - Hercus d'Ath Lecture Theatre at 13:00.

Caroline Focke, 1-yr PhD Presentation, Department of Physiology


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Physiology is the stepchild of medicine. That is why Cinderella often turns out the queen.

Martin H. Fischer