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

Physiology TV

An overview of Physiology at the University of Otago.

News

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

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.

Next Event

12th June, 2017

Daniel Barth (PhD Final presentation, Department of Physiology)

 
PhD Programme.

Summer Research Scholarships

The Physiology Department has its own internal application process.

Every year a number of summer research projects are offered in the Department of Physiology (18 were offered in 2015). Being selected for one of these projects means 10-weeks of paid, hands-on experience, working in a lab alongside researchers who are at the forefront of their field.

200-level students or above with a PHSL, NEUR or FUHB background are invited to apply, particularly those students who are keen on pursuing 400-level study in these subjects.

Projects Available

A list of the summer research projects available in the Department of Physiology for 2016/17 are listed below.

Applying for a Project

The Physiology Department have their own application process where students submit preliminary information about which summer research projects in the Department for which they would like to be chosen. From these applications, academics will choose which students they would like to invite to do summer research projects in their labs for ten weeks between November/December 2016 and January/February 2017.

How to Apply

Have a look at the list of possible projects available for download and on noticeboards on the ground floor of the Lindo Ferguson Building.

Talk to the academics that are offering the projects you are interested in to find out more about the project itself and see if it is suitable for you.

Decide which projects you would like to be considered for – you can choose a maximum of three.

Fill in an application form available here or from Karla Sellwood in the Physiology Administration Office and hand it in to Karla by midday, 12 August 2016.

What Happens Next

Karla will give a copy of your application form and academic record to the academic/s with whom you are interested in working.

The academics will go through their pile of applications and decide to which student they would like to offer their summer research project.

All students will be informed as to whether or not they have been accepted to submit a project for a summer research scholarship in the Physiology Department by 18 August 2016.

Selected students work with their academic supervisor to prepare an application for a summer student scholarship. Deadline for application and letter of recommendation from the supervisor to Karla is 23rd August 2016. Karla will ensure this is signed by the HoD and will electronically send to the Division of Health Sciences by the due date.

How are the projects funded and how much will I get paid?

Funding comes from a variety of sources. For more information see the Summer Research Scholarship Programme Handbook.

Scholarship amounts are valued at $4,000. Payments are made in three instalments that are paid in early December, mid January and April (once the final report is approved).

Have any questions that aren’t answered here? Contact Karla in the Physiology Admin office.

Projects Available

A list of the summer research projects available in the Department of Physiology for 2015/16 is below.

Cardiovascular & Respiratory Physiology

The following projects are available in the Cardiovascular & Respiratory Physiology group:

Cellular & Molecular Neuroscience

The following projects are available in the Cellular & Molecular Neuroscience group:

Membrane & Ion Transport

The following projects are available in the Membrane & Ion Transport group:

Adrenergic control of the diabetic heart

Most patients with type 2 diabetes develop some form of heart disease. In our cardiovascular laboratory, we investigate the pathophysiology of the adrenergic control of the diabetic heart. Potential projects are to study the underlying signal transduction mechanisms of the diabetic heart in a rat model or in human cardiac samples, or the neuronal innervation of the diabetic rat heart. I am looking for an enthusiastic student who after this summer project might also be interested to continue with a BSc (Hons) or BBiomedSc (Hons) project. Please feel free to contact me for additional information. regis.lamberts@otago.ac.nz

Dr Regis Lamberts
Show Lamberts Lab page.

MicroRNAs in diabetic cardiovascular disease

People with diabetes mellitus are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in these patients. The pathophysiology behind the development of diabetic heart disease is still not clear. MicroRNAs (short, noncoding RNAs) are recently gaining interest due to their active role in several diseases including cardiovascular diseases. However, the role of microRNAs in pathophysiology of diabetic heart disease is not known. Our laboratory is currently working on several projects to unravel the unknown facts of diabetic heart disease. If you are interested in joining our team, please come to discuss the potential projects with Rajesh. For more details, please visit the following website: http://phsl.otago.ac.nz/peoplelab.php?lab=4

Associate Professor Rajesh Katare
Show Katare Lab page.

Role of RyR2 in cardiac arrhythmia

Cardiac arrhythmias remain the leading cause of death in patients with heart disease. An important trigger for arrhythmias is the inappropriate opening of the cardiac ryanodine receptor (RyR2). However, the mechanism by which these openings occur is not well understood. We have found that mutations within RyR2 and certain arrhythmogenic drugs increase the frequency of RyR2 openings by increasing the sensitivity of RyR2 to intra-store (SR) calcium. These data suggest that alterations in RyR2’s SR calcium sensitivity represent a common mechanism underlying arrhythmia. RyR2 is part of a large macromolecular complex with other proteins. Others have shown that loss of these proteins can increase the activity of RyR2 and lead to heart disease. Using protein biochemistry coupled with advanced SR calcium imaging this project proposed to determine whether the interaction of these RyR2-binding proteins with RyR2 alters the opening of RyR2. Email pete.jones@otago.ac.nz for further information.

Dr Peter Jones
Show Jones Lab page.

The effect of exercise on cardiovascular control in diabetes

Here we assess the effect of various exercise intensity regimes on improving the structural and functional capacity of the cardiovascular system in diabetes. Samples have previously been collected from diabetic mice that were subjected to exercise for 8 weeks. A summer project is available for an enthusiastic competent student to perform molecular and histological examination of these samples, with the primary aim of further understanding the impact of exercise on cardiovascular control in diabetes. Email daryl.schwenke@otago.ac.nz for further details.

Dr Daryl Schwenke
Show Schwenke Lab page.

The role of CaMKII in cardiac pathology

CaMKII activation has emerged as a primary pathological event in heart failure and arrhythmia, positioning CaMKII as a potential therapeutic target in the treatment of heart disease. With this in mind, our research focuses on investigating the molecular mechanisms that underlie structural heart disease and heart failure, particularly in the context of aging and diabetes. Contributions by a talented summer student would be possible for several projects in my lab, including the role of CaMKII in aging human heart tissue, the development of novel CaMKII biosensors, and CaMKII activation in the diabetic heart. Email jeff.erickson@otago.ac.nz for further information.

Dr Jeff Erickson
Show Erickson Lab page.

Regulation of intercommunication in cortico-limbic brain circuit

Neuropsychiatric and degenerative brain disorders can involve altered connectivity within neural networks underlying perception, cognition and the regulation of emotion. Potential Summer Scholars are invited to apply to work in research on how current and potential treatments for such conditions might make intercommunication within these networks more stable, accurate, and reliable. We use a range of in vitro electrophysiological techniques, to study how the output of neurons interconnecting cortical and limbic regions is regulated, and how it may be disturbed by mechanisms thought to underlie disease. If you are interested in work in this area, please contact Dr Heyward phil.heyward@otago.ac.nz to talk about specific research projects.

Dr Phil Heyward
Show Heyward Lab page.

The influence of the clock on body weight

We are seeking summer students to join a multidisciplinary research group at the Centre of Neuroendocrinology. Our group is studying the neuroendocrine regulation of body weight and its interaction with the mammalian circadian clock. Influences of high fat feeding on brain inflammation and circadian rhythms will be investigated in mice. The student can chose from various projects that focus on different aspects of brain inflammation, obesity and circadian rhythm disorders. Our research combines molecular biological and neuroanatomical techniques with metabolic phenotyping and behavioural analyses. Email alexander.tups@otago.ac.nz for further information.

Dr Alexander Tups
Show Tups Lab page.

The role of exercise in the progression of SCA1

Spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 (SCA1) is a progressive degenerative motor disorder driven by a degeneration of the cerebellum, specifically the Purkinje neurons (PNs) located within. In the Empson lab we have a mouse model of SCA1 which we use to identify mechanisms that contribute to PN degeneration and try to identify potential therapeutic targets to slow down degeneration and onset of symptoms. Much is still unknown about this debilitating disease. One question that remains is what effect exercise and physical activity have on the progression and motor symptoms associated with SCA1. An eager, talented summer student could help to answer this question. Prospective students should contact A/P Empson ruth.empson@otago.ac.nz or Dr Emmet Power emmet.power@otago.ac.nz to discuss the project further.

Associate Professor Ruth Empson
Show Empson Lab page.

Dr Emmet Power
Show Empson Lab page.

Cardiac stem cell function under hyperuricemic conditions

Stem cells are known to be the regenerative backup system of tissues in cases of tissue damage or degeneration and they have been found in almost every organ including the heart. Cardiac stem cells (CSCs) can be found in the myocardium and epicardium of the heart, where they function to regenerate the diseased myocardium. In order to perform at its full potential, stem cells are dependent on their environment, which may be compromised in hyperglycaemia and hyperuricemia in patients with diabetes mellitus. Stem cells are currently in the spot light to become the magic tool for tissue repair for clinicians in many diseases such as neurodegenerative diseases, type 2 diabetes mellitus or heart disease. However, knowledge about the effect of the environment on stem cell function is limited. We are interested in the effects of hyperuricemia (high plasma urate levels) on CSC function to decipher the pathways that affect CSC performance for stem cell therapy. This research project will involve human tissue samples and cell model studies combining different molecular biological and cell culture techniques. Students who are interested in the topic and keen to meet a challenge to perform state of the art research on stem cells are encouraged to apply. Stem cells are known to be the regenerative backup system of tissues in cases of tissue damage or degeneration and they have been found in almost every organ including the heart. Cardiac stem cells (CSCs) can be found in the myocardium and epicardium of the heart, where they function to regenerate the diseased myocardium. In order to perform at its full potential, stem cells are dependent on their environment, which may be compromised in hyperglycaemia and hyperuricemia in patients with diabetes mellitus. Stem cells are currently in the spot light to become the magic tool for tissue repair for clinicians in many diseases such as neurodegenerative diseases, type 2 diabetes mellitus or heart disease. However, knowledge about the effect of the environment on stem cell function is limited. We are interested in the effects of hyperuricemia (high plasma urate levels) on CSC function to decipher the pathways that affect CSC performance for stem cell therapy. This research project will involve human tissue samples and cell model studies combining different molecular biological and cell culture techniques. Students who are interested in the topic and keen to meet a challenge to perform state of the art research on stem cells are encouraged to apply. Please contact the supervisors for further information: Dr Andrew Bahn and Dr Rajesh Katare

Dr Andrew Bahn
Show Bahn Lab page.

Associate Professor Rajesh Katare
Show Katare Lab page.

How are ion channels recycled?

‘Retromer’ is a newly recognised protein complex that decides whether transmembrane proteins will be recycled, or sent for destruction. Snx (sorting nexin) proteins are a key component of the retromer complex, and assist with cargo binding and retromer complex formation. The epithelial sodium channel, ENaC, known for its role in sodium balance and blood pressure homeostatsis associates with retromer, but we don’t know which Snx protein is essential for this interaction. In this project, you will measure Na+ transport through the epithelial sodium channel, ENaC, in an established Ussing chamber system. You will then knockdown a specific Snx protein using siRNAs, and test the effect of reduced Snx protein on Na+ transport. Email fiona.mcdonald@otago.ac.nz for further information.

Associate Professor Fiona McDonald
Show McDonald Lab page.

How does cardiovascular disease alter epithelial Na+ channel expression (ENaC) in the vasculature?

The diameter of blood vessels is regulated by the blood flow (shear force), passing through the lumen of the vessels. This mechanism is dysregulated in cardiovascular diseases (e.g., hypertension, diabetes). The mechanism(s) behind this physiological function and what changes in pathophysiology are unclear. We hypothesise that impaired vascular ENaC expression leads to the functional changes in the vascular responses. Therefore, the objective of this project is to determine the role of ENaC in blood vessels of healthy and diseased carotid arteries by determining ENaC mRNA and protein expression levels. For any inquiry and/or more detailed information please contact Zoe zoe.ashley@otago.ac.nz or Martin martin.fronius@otago.ac.nz

Dr Martin Fronius
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Dr Zoe Ashley
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Dr Carol Bussey
Show Erickson Lab page.

Role of cytoskeletal and accessory proteins in targeting KCa3.1 channel to the basolateral membrane of polarised epithelial cell

I have had a long-term interest in the molecular physiology and pharmacology of epithelial K+ channels, specifically, the Ca2+-dependent, intermediate-conductance K+ channel, KCa3.1. Recently, my lab has been examining the anterograde and retrograde trafficking of KCa3.1 to and from the basolateral membrane of polarized epithelia. The cytoskeleton and accessory proteins play major roles in the trafficking of proteins throughout the cell and to and from the membrane. This project will continue our investigation of these proteins in the trafficking of KCa3.1. This will be approached using a range of molecular cell physiological techniques. Summer project(s) on offer will be in this area of research and interested students should organize a time to come and discuss the prospects further. Email kirk.hamilton@otago.ac.nz for further information.

Dr Kirk Hamilton
Show Hamilton Lab page.

Use of optogenetics in pancreatic β-cells to decipher the role of GLUT9 under hyperuricemic conditions

Hyperuricemia or high serum uric acid (SUA), a condition that is considered to cause gout, is a consequence of an unhealthy diet high in fructose, red meat or alcohol. High SUA is currently in the spotlight and connected to many diseases such as cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes mellitus or cancer. We have established that elevated SUA contributes to impaired insulin secretion and β-cell death in the pancreas. We are now interested in dissecting the uric acid effects from the glucose effects on pancreatic β-cell function using an optogenetic approach in order to identify the uric acid-driven molecular mechanisms that link hyperuricemia to the development of type 2 diabetes. There are several projects available to evaluate optogenetic approaches in β-cell function using molecular methods and calcium imaging. Email andrew.bahn@otago.ac.nz for further details

Dr Andrew Bahn
Show Bahn Lab page.

I love it how we are learning cutting edge research from people who are top in the world in their field of research.

Juliet Kane - BSc (Physiology) student