News and Events - May, 2010

Hons candidate Shawna Foo (Byrne Lab) wins national award and research grant

21st of May, 2010

Shawna Foo is currently completing her Honours in the Byrne Lab and has recently been awarded a research grant and has been the recipient of a national Honours award.

Shawna Foo portrait

Research Grant
Shawna has been successful in her application for the Marine Adaptation Network Honours Research Support Grant. This will support her research investigating the interactive effects of climate change stressors on echinoderm development and their adaptive capacity.

Honours Award
Shawna also has been selected as the recipient of the 2010 NSW AMSA Honours Student Award. This is awarded from the Australian Marine Sciences Association to support honours research.

Frank Lovicu (Postgraduate Coordinator): "This is a great achievement especially for such a junior member of our discipline".

PhD candidate Hailey Shin (Lens Research Laboratory) granted prestigious travel award

18th of May, 2010

Ms Hailey Shin (PhD candidate) from the Lens Research Laboratory was granted a prestigious travel award by the International Society for Eye Research to attend and present her work at the International Congress for Eye Research to be held in Montreal, Canada, in July, 2010.

Hailey portrait

The presentation
Our laboratory has shown that proteins in the eye belonging to the Sprouty gene family play a role in maintenance of the integrity of lens cells. These proteins are not only strongly expressed in the lens but we have recently shown them to effectively influence the ability of lens cells to respond to cytokines such as TGFß. As TGFß has the ability to induce cataract in our lines of transgenic mice, we can effectively block this ocular pathology by overexpressing Sprouty in lenses of these mice. Taken together, anatogonists such as Sprouty may have in role in tightly regulating the growth factor signaling in the lens, in effect maintaining the structure and function of this tissue.

Desired outcomes from travel
Hailey: "I would like to form further acquaintances with other fellow researchers in the vision research field. I would like to not only obtain feedback on my current research, but also expand my interest in vision research. I believe that it will provide an invaluable opportunity to obtain deeper insights for my PhD project and also further my career in scientific research."

Ellas Nanitsos (Balcar laboratory) awarded PhD

12th of May, 2010

The Discipline of Anatomy & Histology Postgraduate Committee and Vladimir Balcar (PhD Supervisor) pass on their congratulations to Ellas Nanitsos (Balcar laboratory), who has recently been awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Ellas portrait

Ellas studied Neuroscience at The University of Sydney and graduated in 2001 with a Bachelor of Science degree. Ellas returned to her studies in 2002 and obtained Graduate Diploma in Science for her thesis "The role of Na+-dependent Glutamate Transporters and the (Na+,K+)-ATPase in the CNS" while she developed a novel method (uptake of Rb+ estimated by atomic absorption spectrometry) for studying the activity of (Na+,K+)-ATPase in fresh brain tissue in vitro.

Ellas then extended her interests towards the biochemistry and pharmacology of mental disease. In her PhD thesis "Impact of pharmacological manipulation of neurotransmitter systems on brain metabolism" Ellas focused on actions of neuroleptic haloperidol and other drugs such as dopamine agonists, antagonists and re-uptake inhibitors as well as purinergic agonists and an endocannabinoid anandamide on (Na+,K+)-ATPase, glutamate transporters and brain metabolom studied by 13C-NMR spectroscopy. The latter part of the work was done in collaboration with Professor Caroline (Lindy) Rae at POWMRI. The principal finding was that chronic haloperidol reduced levels of both GLAST and GLT (the two most important glutamate transporters accounting for about 3% of total brain protein) and this was accompanied by significant changes in brain metabolom. Other observations included reversal of ouabain effects (oubain is a (Na+,K+)-ATPase inhibitor and known neurotoxin) by anandamide, possibly providing early glimpses of a previously unexplored mechanism underlying aetiology of schizophrenia.

Future directions
Ellas: "The field of neurochemistry is a fascinating area as it provides clues to some of the processes underlying the functions of the nervous system. I particularly enjoy the challenge in attempting to unravel the mechanisms with which the various neurotransmitter systems interlink with each other. As such I am looking forward to pursuing a career in neurochemical research in the area of either schizophrenia, food intolerances or perhaps addiction. I currently enjoy conveying to students my passion for the nervous system through my teaching."

Supervisors message
Vladimir Balcar: "It was a great pleasure to work with Ellas. After her visit in Prague Centre of Psychiatry, the deputy director remarked to me 'for a PhD student, Ellas is such a gentle and polite person'. He was absolutely right, yet Ellas always managed to get her way. She was rewarded for her persistence with a wonderful set of findings that may help us to understand why the brain sometimes does not function as it should."