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News from the Centre for Metabolic Health Research

Read about our latest research projects and news.

9 December 2014

Role of osteocytes in bone remodelling 

Bone Diagram

Rabindra Dhital (originally from Kathmandu) has a BSc in Medical Biochemistry and an MSc from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel, where he worked on the effects of fatty acids on bone development. Rabindra’s College of Health PhD Scholarship project focuses on the role of osteocytes in bone remodelling. Osteocytes embedded in the bone matrix relay information on mechanical loading to the osteoblasts and osteoclasts involved in bone turnover but the underlying mechanisms involved are not fully understood. The aim of the project is to study how osteocytes sense mechanical stress at the cellular and molecular level, the cell signalling pathways involved in communicating with osteoblasts and osteoclasts and how this process is influenced by nutritional factors, particularly dietary fatty acids.  Supervisors:  Martin Dickens, Wei-Hang Chua, Raewyn Poulsen and Marlena Kruger (funding from the Palmerston North Medical Research Foundation)

Vitamin D / calcium / ovariectomy sheep study – calling potential collaborators! 

Marlena Kruger and Fran Wolber are doing a study with a PhD student starting late January 2015. Sheep will be:   

    -- untreated (control)
    -- ovariectomised and given low calcium/low vitamin D (to develop mild osteoporosis)
    -- ovariectomised and given low calcium/low vitamin D and given glucocorticoid (to develop significant osteoporosis)
Sheep will go for two or five months and then be euthanised. We will be taking bone and blood samples. This might be a good opportunity for an honours/masters project where the costs and grunt work of an animal trial will be already done for you, so the student just needs to collect samples and do PCR or histochemistry or ELISAs etc.

Pictured: Fran Wolber

Application of a novel technology for improving lower-limb health in peripheral arterial disease 

Inge Ramakers (and supervisors from CMHR) has securing a prestigious College of Health Scholarship. Her study will investigate whether the application of a novel medical garment improves lower-limb muscle performance (walking capacity) in patients with PAD. The secondary aim is to elucidate the mechanisms underpinning any improvements in performance. This study will use cutting-edge methodologies to investigate skeletal muscle cardio-metabolic health.
Supervisors: David Rowlands, Lee Stoner

Chondrocytes and osteoarthritis

Dr Raewyn Poulsen is a brilliant young researcher who uses her combined expertise in nutrition and physiology to study joint health.  Following on from her successful postdoctoral fellowship at Oxford University, Raewyn is now conducting research at Massey University on chondrocytes.
 Chondrocytes both create and tear down cartilage in a pattern that is regulated by their intracellular circadian rhythm.  This rhythm, in turn, is maintained by glucose levels. Chondrocytes in joints afflicted by osteoarthritis fail to repair cartilage after it is destroyed, and Raewyn has discovered that this is because those chondrocytes fail to respond to glucose properly and fail to maintain their intracellular circadian rhythm.
 Osteoarthritis has long been attributed to obesity/overweight putting increased mechanical stress on the joints.  But not all people with osteoarthritis are overweight, just as not all people with metabolic syndrome are overweight.  Raewyn’s research explains why: even a slight increase in blood glucose levels is correlated with an increase in the incidence of osteoarthritis.  The realisation that insulin resistance, a precursor to metabolic syndrome, can directly affect joint health creates a new paradigm and opens new avenues for research into major debilitating diseases such as osteoarthritis.   

30 Oct 2014

How do we define a "healthy woman"? 

This study is at the cutting edge of gene-environment interaction and population health research specifically targeting and promoting the health of New Zealand women.The aim of this project is to gain a greater understanding of the impact of environmental exposure in terms of lifestyle choices on gene expression (epigenetics). The PhD is specifically looking at the molecular impact of a 6-month diet and exercise intervention program designed to optimise and maintain long-term lifestyle changes, using social media as a support tool, to achieve and maintain healthy body-shape goals in women aged 18-40.

Pictured: PhD candidate Victoria Chin

Supervisors: Michelle Thunders, Rachel Page and Sarah Shultz

Biomarkers in Singaporean women

Marlena Kruger has secured a large grant to investigate and develop biomarkers in Singaporean women. The project involves three collaborators in NZ and three from Singapore and is jointly funded by both countries. Here are the specific details:
Title: Biomarker Development and Validation in Singaporean Women
Funding bodies: MBIE (NZ) and A*Star (Singapore)
Amount awarded: $1.5 million

Can NZ food-crop phytochemicals inhibit breast cancer? 

Sherina Holland (and supervisors from MHC) has secured a prestigious Vice Chancellor's Doctoral Scholarship.Her study focuses on identifying cellular pathways that may lead to the development of breast cancer, and assessing the potential of New Zealand plants to reduce breast cancer development.  Both aspects of the project will use cutting-edge science and lead to new discoveries with the aim of promoting health and well-being.
Supervisors: Kay Rutherfurd-Markwick, Fran Wolber, Martin Dickens, Julian Heyes

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