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Student research project

Supervisor(s): Associate Professor Judy de Haan, Professor Rebecca Ritchie and Dr Arpeeta Sharma

Research focus

To determine whether limiting oxidative stress and inflammation through the use of polyphenols derived from pomegranate juice, lessens cardiac and vascular injury sustained as a consequence of type 2 diabetes.

Project summary

Oxidative stress and inflammation are two significant drivers of diabetic complications such as cardiovascular disease. Type 2 diabetes affects almost 2 million Australians and by 2040 it is predicted to increase to 642 million people globally. Despite available drugs to reduce high blood pressure, lower lipids and lessen blood glucose levels, individuals with Type 2 diabetes still develop debilitating complications.

Thus, there is an urgent need for new drugs to lessen these complications. Recent evidence suggest that polyphenols extracted from pomegranate juice are potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents. Limited studies show their benefits in improving insulin-resistance but the effect of these compounds on diabetic cardiovascular disease has not yet been explored. Therefore, mice will be made diabetic by high fat feeding together with administration of a β-islet cytotoxic drug, streptozotocin, and administered polyphenols for varying lengths of time. Thereafter, vascular lesions and cardiac function will be assessed. This project will also investigate the effect of these drugs on “sterile” inflammation in vitro by assessing NLRP3 inflammasome signalling in mouse bone marrow derived macrophages.

This project is suitable for an Honours student and will use various techniques, including:

  • preclinical models of diabetic cardiac and vascular disease
  • drug treatments
  • assessment of cardiac and vascular function
  • Westerns blots
  • real‐time PCR
  • histology
  • immunofluorescence
  • ROS detection. 

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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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