• Question: What is the most exciting discovery you made during your research?

    Asked by lovescienceforever on 12 Jun 2019.
    • Photo: Rebecca Moon

      Rebecca Moon answered on 12 Jun 2019:

      We have discovered that women are given extra vitamin D when they are pregnant, if their baby is born in winter months, the baby has more mineral in their bones than a baby born to a mother who did not receive vitamin D. This is super exciting as increasing the amount of mineral in the bones reduces the risk of later fracture and osteoporosis (thinning of the bones in later life). We are continuing to follow-up the children in the study to see if the effect is still there when they are 4.

    • Photo: Kaitlin Wade

      Kaitlin Wade answered on 12 Jun 2019:

      My work has contributed to the finding that obesity is one of the biggest and most important causes of cancer (second to smoking). To do this, I had to work with leaders in the field of cancer epidemiology to compile all of the evidence in the literature on this scientific question to understand the extent to which obesity does cause cancer. It was an amazing piece of work to be involved with and it was a very important question to answer.

    • Photo: David Wilson

      David Wilson answered on 13 Jun 2019:

      I found a signalling pathway in the cells in the liver that controlled the formation of scar tissue when the liver was damaged. This was a really exciting discovery for us but like a lot of scientific discovery’s it raised even more questions.
      Scar tissue is essential for tissue repair, it’s like a scaffold that the organ can then rebuild itself around but if you get too much scar tissue (liver cirrhosis) then you lose the parts of the liver that do the actual work. It’s a fine balance, enough scar tissue for proper repair but not too much that the liver fails to work properly.

    • Photo: Nina Rzechorzek

      Nina Rzechorzek answered on 14 Jun 2019:

      So far, probably what I found during my PhD which focused on the molecular mechanisms of hypothermic neuroprotection (how cooling protects brain cells).

      Innovative strategies are needed to protect the brain. Cooling is robustly neuroprotective, but currently of use in just a few patients with acute brain injury (such as babies starved of oxygen at birth). My PhD was driven by the concept that greater therapeutic potential may lie in understanding how cooling protects brain cells at the molecular level. Previous studies in rats had suggested that cooling could precondition or ‘train’ the brain to cope with injuries that would otherwise be lethal. Using human brain cells grown from stem cells, I mimicked clinical cooling in the lab to explore how molecular consequences of this protected brain cells from common injurious factors.
      Cooling produced a molecular ‘cold-shock’ response in human brain cells and protected them from key death-inducing factors. It also dramatically affected tau—a brain cell protein that becomes irreversibly modified in neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Remarkably, cooling returned tau to a ‘foetal-like’ state, providing evidence that cooling partially reverses development in human brain cells. Moreover, by causing a mild cellular stress, cooling preconditioned the unfolded protein response (UPR)—a cellular signaling cascade that maintains protein quality control, but becomes overwhelmed in neurodegenerative diseases. I demonstrated that cold-induced changes in tau and the UPR represent significant components of hypothermic neuroprotection. Since cooling protects brain cells from molecular stressors implicated in both traumatic and degenerative processes, understanding the molecular biology of cooling (cryobiology) could reveal multiple therapeutic targets for brain disorders—without cooling patients.

      All of my work has been published in Open Access journals, which means anyone can read it online for free. Here are some of the publications relevant to this work:


    • Photo: Matthew Bareford

      Matthew Bareford answered on 20 Jun 2019:

      During my degree studies, I worked on developing possible new compounds to use for anti-cancer medication, and one of mine was put forward to clinical trials – so that was pretty cool!