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Student research project

Supervisor(s): Dr Brian Drew, Darren Henstridge and Ian Trounce

Project summary

Both Dr Brian Drew and Dr Darren Henstridge's research is aimed at understanding the processes that lead to the disruption of metabolism. This is important as alterations to metabolism contributes to the development of diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and neurodegenerative disorders.

A number of years ago, Associate Professor Ian Trounce (Centre for Eye Research Australia — CERA) produced a novel mouse line called the xenomitochondrial (XENO) mouse. This mouse is unique in that it carries the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from another mouse species but maintains all of its own nuclear encoded DNA. Studies in this mouse have demonstrated that this alteration leads to mild mitochondrial dysfunction and features of Parkinson's disease with aging in these mice.

Dr Brian Drew and Dr Darren Henstridge (the Baker Institute) have been working for a number of years on a protein called heat shock protein 72 (Hsp72), which is a protein that protects cells against cellular damage, stress and injury. Deletion of Hsp72 (Hsp72 knockout (KO) mice) also leads to mitochondrial dysfunction and the inability of a protein named parkin (which is important in parkinson's disease) to function properly.

In this collaborative project, we will breed the XENO mice with Hsp72KO mice to see if the deletion of Hsp72 in the XENO mice leads to greater mitochondrial dysfunction and disease pathology.  This project will involve experiments to characterise the metabolic and behavioural traits of the XENO mouse once it also lacks the Hsp72 protein.

We hypothesise that the loss of Hsp72 in the Xeno mouse will accelerate mitochondrial dysfunction leading to increased adiposity, impaired glucose tolerance indicative of type 2 diabetes, decreased exercise capacity and a loss of motor coordination.

This project is suitable for an Honours student.

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With the rising number of Australians affected by diabetes, heart disease and stroke, the need for research is more critical than ever.

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