Isobel Corin Award Recipients’ Reports

Dr Oddom Demontiero

Dr Oddom Demontiero

Research fellow in ageing bone research and PhD candidate

The Isobel Corin Research Award provided me with financial assistance for travel to Orlando, Florida in the United States to give poster presentations for the 2010 Annual Scientific Meeting of The American Geriatrics Society which took place from May 12-15th. The title of my presentations were: ‘Use of Virtual Reality for Balance Training in Unsteady Community-dwelling Elderly Fallers’ and ‘Increasing Levels of Marrow Fat are site specific: The Fat Against Trabeculae (FAT) Study’.

The first presentation was based on the evolving use of modern technology called The Balance Rehabilitation Unit in assessing balance in the older population and which had been shown to be effective in Parkinson’s disease patients with postural instability. However this technology’s usefulness had not been demonstrated in older people who presents to hospitals and clinics with recurrent falls without defined diagnoses. These older persons present signifi cant challenges to doctors, therapists and the health system in general. This meeting provided a forum for me to present this significant new data of the usefulness (assessment and therapeutic) of this tool in the older population with balance problems, to a varied audience of clinicians and scientific researchers within the field of geriatric and rehabilitation medicine. This poster had received a high ranking and thus was presented in the general poster session and the presidential session. Although it did not win the poster prize it received significant interests from the attendees. Their input was valuable for future work into this area of falls and balance in the frail population.

The second presentation was based on the increasing knowledge of the mechanism of age related bone loss. This marrow fat and bone relationship had not been examined through clinical studies prior. The FAT study presents the possibility of a new method of determining this relationship noninvasively and using CT which is more accessible and better tolerated by older patients. It presents a stepping stone to future clinical research into this important area. In addition, because of its novelty, the poster attracted significant interests among the attendees.

The conference was well represented by clinicians, scientists, researchers and allied health workers. The local representation was strong and the international attendees were also impressive. There was strong emphasis on research and professional development as indicated by the poster and oral presentations and the variety of research categories. There were also high quality symposium, Henderson State-Of-The-Art Lectures, meet the expert sessions, and clinical updates.

Overall, the opportunity to show my work to a large and international audience and the chance to interact, exchange ideas and make contact with fellow clinician-researchers within the field of geriatric medicine and bone biology was both an invaluable and rewarding experience. I thank the Nepean Medical Research Foundation for their support.

Dr Ann Quinton

Dr Ann Quinton

Senior research sonographer and PhD candidate

I would like to thank the Nepean Medical Research Foundation for the award of the Isabel Corin Travel Scholarship. This award enabled me to attend the International Society for the Study of Hypertension in Pregnancy (ISSHP) meeting in Melbourne in October 2010 where I was able to convey the fi ndings of my research titled “A comparison of different methodologies in flow mediated dilatation in women with pre-eclampsia compared to women with gestational hypertension” as an oral presentation.

This work is part of my PhD candidature where I have been using a vascular ultrasound technique to look at the function of maternal blood vessels in normal pregnancy, pre-eclampsia and gestational hypertension and the effect of cigarette smoking on vessels in pregnancy. Hypertension in pregnancy continues to be one of the leading causes of maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality. The cause is unknown and at present there is no treatment so there is a pressing need for further research in this area.

The abstract of my work was published in the international journal Pregnancy Hypertension and the paper has been accepted for publication in the same journal.

At ISSHP I was able to attend state of the art and plenary sessions to learn about the latest research on preeclampsia, given by world renowned experts. My talk was also attended by a number of leaders in the particular fi eld that I am studying and I had the privilege of being asked a number of questions by these people. This has enabled me to look upon my research in a new light and will defi nitely help in the writing of my thesis. The conference also enabled me to network with other researchers and more importantly has given me ideas for further research.

The opportunity of presenting at such a prestigious meeting would not have been possible without the generous support of the Nepean Medical Research Foundation.

Jessica Tong

Jessica Tong

Summer scholarship student report on American Geriatrics Society Annual Meeting in Washington DC USA, May 2011

My poster presentation at the AGS 2011 meeting was titled "Lamin A/C is Associated with Fat Infi ltration of Muscle and Bone: A Proposed Model of Sarco-osteopenia", and I conducted the research with Wei Li and Dr. Chris Vidal under the supervision of Associate Professor Gustavo Duque. Our poster discussed the molecular mechanisms underlying "sarco-osteopenia", a condition in elderly frailty patients, in which the loss of bone and muscle mass, is accompanied by significant fat infi ltration into the bone marrow cavity and skeletal muscle.

Whereas sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass and function) and osteopenia (reduced bone density) were previously considered to be two separate conditions, our findings now suggest that they are in fact linked by a common pathophysiological mechanism involving lamin A/C, which is a nuclear protein that largely regulates adult stem cell differentiation into muscle, bone or fat cell precursors. Our work on lamin A/C-deficient mice generated results that support our hypothesis, in which lamin A/C deficiency will cause adult stem cells to preferentially differentiate into fat cells, thus causing an imbalance in the population of fat, muscle and bone cells.

The AGS meeting was an excellent conference that allowed me to learn more about geriatrics and its multitude of research possibilities. One of the symposiums I attended was about US vs. European clinical defi nitions of "sarcopenia". The discussion mostly centred on which criteria were appropriate for diagnosing sarcopenia (e.g. muscle mass, grip strength, mobility). This was a very interesting debate, as it made me consider how our results on fat, muscle and bone volumes, could perhaps be collectively considered in future diagnostic definitions, and thus help to optimise patient care by early identification of disease.

I am very grateful to the Nepean Medical Research Foundation for awarding me one of the Isobel Corin Travel Scholarships for 2011, as the AGS meeting was a wonderful experience, and certainly an eyeopener into how advanced and exciting geriatrics research is.