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Student research project

Supervisor(s): Professor Andrew Murphy, Dr Graeme Lancaster, Dr Man Kit ‘Sam' Lee and Dr Helene Kammoun

Project summary

Cardiovascular disease has now surpassed infection as the leading cause of death worldwide. In our laboratory we are attempting to uncover the mechanisms that contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease and identify aspects of the disease process that can be targeted for therapeutic gain. The major focus of our laboratory is in understanding how the cells of the immune system contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease. Existing work within our laboratory is examining the roles of neutrophils and specific subsets of monocytes in cardiovascular disease, as well as defining how lifestyle factors (e.g. diet, obesity) and other diseases (e.g. autoimmune diseases) trigger increased production of immune cells leading to worsened cardiovascular disease outcomes. Our laboratory also has in interest in mechanisms leading to the development of type 2 diabetes and in applying ‘omics’-based discovery platforms to define the types of lipids that are found within the various different types of cells that make up our immune system.

Within the topic, we can offer a range of projects to Masters, Honours and PhD students who are interested in the above. Potential projects for 2018 include:

  1. Examining the role of a protein called interleukin 18 binding protein (IL-18bp) in the development of obesity and metabolic dysfunction.
    (This project is related to type 2 diabetes.)
  2. Examining whether supplementing the diet with probiotics can prevent the bone destruction that is caused by consuming a diet high in salt.
    (This project is related to cardiovascular disease.)
  3. Examining the lipid and metabolic changes that occur in immune cells.
    (This project examines both the homeostatic and pathological roles that lipids can exert in immune cells.)

Related methods, skills or technologies

We used a wide range of experimental approaches in our laboratory. Much of our work is conducted in laboratory mice and we use gene knockout and bone marrow transfer approaches to examine the roles of particular molecules in cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. These studies typically involve feeding mice high fat, high cholesterol, or high salt diets to recapitulate the pathology of human disease conditions. We also perform in vitro experiments in cells isolated from mice and human donors. Such experiments allow us to probe disease causing mechanisms that would otherwise be difficult to assess in whole animal models.

We use a range of experimental techniques in our laboratory, including but not limited to flow cytometry, PCR, western blotting, immunohistochemistry, and mass spectrometry-based approaches for measuring lipids (in collaboration with Professor Peter Meikle). Our laboratory is extremely interactive, with students and staff assisting with the projects of others, thereby providing students a diverse research experience. Previous Honours students from our laboratory have been awarded highly competitive Australian Postgraduate Award PhD Scholarships and previous Honours and PhD students have published their work in high quality scientific journals.

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