Awarded Fellowships and Scholarships

Fellowships and Doctoral Scholarships awarded 2016

  • 30 Nov 2016

 

Douglas Goodfellow Repatriation Fellowship Extension

DEVELOPING ZEBRAFISH ETV6 MODELS OF ACUTE MYELOID LEUKEMIA (AML) FOR CHEMICAL SUPPRESSOR SCREENS ($195,924 – 1 year) 1413001-1

Dr Andrew Wood
Dept. of Molecular Medicine & Pathology, University of Auckland

Acute Myeloid Leukaemia is an aggressive blood cancer and only 60% of children become long-term survivors and those survivors may suffer long-term side effects from treatment. However, if the leukaemia has mutations in the ETV6 gene the outcomes are much worse but the reasons for this are poorly understood. The goal of this project is to make models of ETV6 mutant leukaemias in cells and zebrafish. These models may help define the biological circuity of these leukaemias with the ultimate goal of developing treatments that improve cure rate and quality of life.

 

Postdoctoral Fellowship

EDITH C COAN RESEARCH FELLOWSHIP

ENDOSCOPIC MAPPING OF GASTRIC SLOW WAVES ($199,473 – 2 years) 1316001

Dr Timothy Angeli
Auckland Bioengineering Institute, University of Auckland

The mechanical contractions that are responsible for breaking down and transporting food through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract are initiated and coordinated by underlying bioelectrical events, termed ‘slow waves.’ In the healthy stomach, slow waves propagate in a routine, highly-organised pattern down the stomach. Abnormal slow wave patterns, termed ‘dysrhythmias,’ have been associated with many digestive disorders, where patients suffer frequent debilitating symptoms including abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, and vomiting. Diagnosis of digestive disorders can be difficult, causing frustration for patients and clinicians, and current approaches for detecting the spatially-complex GI dysrhythmias require surgery. To address this clinical problem, I aim to develop and validate endoscopic (down the throat) gastric electrical mapping as a minimally-invasive technique for diagnosing gastric dysrhythmias, where a custom-designed electrode array will be applied to the inside of the stomach to map slow wave activation patterns. A safe and effective approach for endoscopic delivery will be developed, and the accuracy of the endoscopic electrical recordings will be verified intraoperatively against highly-validated but surgically-invasive recordings. Finally, minimally-invasive gastric mapping will be validated in patients undergoing routine endoscopy. Altogether, this project has the potential to deliver a novel diagnostic approach for debilitating digestive disorders.

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Funded by: Edith C Coan Trust

 

Doctoral Scholarships

BARBARA BASHAM DOCTORAL SCHOLARSHIP

EXPLOITING BRAIN MECHANISMS TO PROTECT THE PRETERM BRAIN FROM INJURY?

Mr Hyeon Tae (Kenta) Cho
Dept. of Physiology, University of Auckland

Many preterm infants develop brain injury around the time of birth, with a high risk of life-long disability. Currently, we have no effective way of preventing disability. Our preliminary findings using a well-established animal model of preterm brain injury suggest for the first time that therapeutic manipulation of a critical endogenous neuroprotective anti-inflammatory mechanism can reduce damage to oligodendrocytes, the myelin-producing cells of the CNS. These findings suggest that it is possible to preserve myelination by supporting natural pathways in the brain. However, it remains to be proved whether this therapy will be effective when used at clinically relevant times, with the inevitable delays between injury and initiation of therapy. Thus, to replicate and extend our findings we will robustly test the optimal “window of opportunity” during which this therapy might be instituted to rescue these cells from irreversible damage or cell death.

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Funded by: Barbara Basham Medical Charitable Trust

 

BRIAN DE LUEN DOCTORAL SCHOLARSHIP

UNDERSTANDING GABA SIGNALLING IN HUMAN PERICYTES IN HEALTHY AND ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE BRAINS ($111,500 – 2 years, 5 months) 1216002

Mr Karan Govindpani
Dept. of Anatomy and Medical Imaging, University of Auckland

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a common neurodegenerative disorder, and the leading cause of dementia in elderly patients. It is well-known that the brain vasculature is severely affected in AD, often years to decades before the appearance of clinical symptoms. Pericytes are cells that wrap around small blood vessels in the brain, causing them to expand or contract to change blood flow. The neurotransmitter γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is present at high levels in the healthy brain and has a range of important functions, including the regulation of neuronal excitability. However, the GABA system may become dysfunctional in AD. Since GABA regulates blood flow, we are interested in determining whether GABA may exert this role through contractile pericytes. In this study, we will attempt to detect and locate components of the GABA neurotransmitter system in pericytes and other cells of the brain circulatory system, and to study whether these are altered in AD. In addition, we will test the responses of pericytes to drugs that target the GABA system, with the aim of trying to compensate for changes that we might detect in AD. This research will help to determine whether GABA dysfunction contributes to vascular changes in AD.

Funded by: Brian De Luen Estate

 

RISK ASSESSMENT FOR EMERGENCY LAPAROTOMY ($128,000 – 3 years) 1216005

Dr Ahmed Barazanchi
South Auckland Clinical School, University of Auckland

Emergency laparotomy is a commonly performed surgical procedure with a high mortality and morbidity. Several different operations can be classified as an emergency laparotomy and it is commonly performed on acutely unwell patients as a lifesaving procedure. Predicting outcomes preoperatively is paramount for patient information, planning of perioperative care and deciding on palliative therapies. This study aims to develop a reliable easy to use predictive score based on preoperative patient state. The score will be developed using a retrospective review of Middlemore Hospital patients over the last ten years. The score will be validated and adjusted based on prospective multicenter cohort study run for one year and three months. The risk score will also aim to follow up patients for one year to predict long term impact in the form of ongoing morbidity and quality of life. The risk assessment score will be introduced into a clinical pathway for emergency laparotomy patients. The clinical pathway will provide appropriate level care for high risk patients to reduce overall mortality and morbidity. The proposed study will be the first New Zealand developed emergency laparotomy scoring system. The scoring system will also be the first developed prospectively specifically for emergency laparotomies.

 

CORTICAL EXCITATION-INHIBITION BALANCE IN HEALTH AND DISEASE ($87,000 – 2 years) 1216006

Ms Rachael Sumner
Dept. of Psychology, University of Auckland

Despite the widespread prevalence of depression, currently accepted treatments do not work for approximately one third of patients. One of the key reasons for this is that there remains a fundamental lack of understanding of the biological basis and causes of depression. Continuing advancement in brain imaging techniques provide potentially valuable new methods for measuring biomarkers of central nervous system diseases. Biomarkers can potentially be used for understanding the causes of diseases and for the prediction and evaluation of treatment outcomes. The application of brain imaging techniques for measuring biomarkers of depression will allow new mechanistic insights into the disease process that has not been possible in the past. The main aim of this research is to investigate the use of electroencephalography (EEG) to measure biomarkers of cortical excitation/inhibition and neural plasticity in depression. Reduced neural plasticity has been implicated in a number of brain based disorders, including depression. By targeting visual and auditory evoked neural activity this project will explore how measuring changes in sensory neural plasticity could be used as biomarkers of general brain health in depression.

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Funded by: N. H. Taylor Charitable Trust

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