Determinants of a healthy life

These public lectures explore the genome and explain why your DNA can influence your health and why your gut microbiome is so important.

Newborn genomics: solving medical puzzles to help critically ill babies

Professor Frank Bloomfield, Dr Denis Nyaga and Dr Sophie Farrow

Cutting-edge genome sequencing technology is revolutionising our ability to diagnose rare diseases in infants.

In New Zealand, there are approximately 150,000 children with rare diseases. Less than half of them are diagnosed by the time they turn one, and almost a quarter end up waiting more than ten years for a diagnosis.

Liggins Institute Director Justin O’Sullivan is on a mission to change this. He has just established new genetic sequencing facilities that have the power to sequence human genomes overnight. For less than NZ$3000, it’s now possible to sequence and compare the DNA from mum, dad and a sick child to identify changes that could be contributing to the child’s condition. This will empower clinicians and whānau to deal with more than 400 known rare diseases where there are readily available treatments.

Dr Denis Nyaga, a Research Fellow in the Newborn Genomics programme, spoke about this new genetic sequencing facility on behalf of Professor Justin O’Sullivan, who was ill. Professor Frank Bloomfield joined him to discuss his experiences with this technology while working as a neonatologist at Auckland Hospital. Finally, Dr Sophie Farrow provided insights into the stages following diagnosis and the pioneering treatments emerging for rare genetic disorders.

From the mouth to the genes and back again: a discussion of complex disease

Professor Justin O'Sullivan

Watch the inaugural lecture of Professor Justin O’Sullivan of the Liggins Institute as he discusses the research that has shaped his understanding of the genetic code, complex diseases (Diabetes, Parkinson’s, mood disorders and metabolic syndrome), and the microbiome. What does it mean now, and what can it mean for the future?

Precision medicine: Your genes and mental health

Associate Professor Justin O’Sullivan, Research Fellow William Schierding and PhD students Evgeniia Golovina and Denis Nyaga 

Explore the role your genes play in your mental health, cognition and mood. Our researchers discuss how knowing what your genes do can guide the development of future personalised medicine for prevention and treatment of mental health conditions and type 1 diabetes.

Learn how new 3D gene-mapping technologies, pioneered by the Liggins Institute, are helping to understand how genetic variants linked to schizophrenia, severe anxiety, bipolar disorder, unipolar depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affect people.

The power and potential of the gut microbiome

Professor Wayne Cutfield, Dr Justin O'Sullivan, Dr Ben Albert

A ground-breaking study is underway that might just be the simplest way to treat the obesity crisis.

Gut bacteria taken from healthy donors – cleaned, encapsulated, and swallowed with a glass of water – could be the key to weight loss. The researchers behind the so-called 'Gut Bugs' trial think one treatment alone could be enough to change the course of a person's obesity, so they're trialing it in very overweight teenagers. This fascinating public lecture explains the science behind the trial and just how clever your resident bacteria are.

Can your gut bacteria set a blueprint for diabetes?

PhD candidate Thilini Vidanelage 

Studies shows that gut bacteria differs in babies, and this can affect whether they are likely to suffer from certain health issues such as diabetes later on in life.  

You may have seen in the media that there has been a lot of discussion about gut health and how it can influence the health of the entire body. The effect of gut bacteria – microbiome – health in children as young as preterm babies can influence the development of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

In this presentation, Thilini Maddegoda Vidanelage explains how she examined the gut microbiome. She looks at how the microbiome differs in pre and full-term babies, and why this affects insulin resistance.

How does a genome’s structure affect your chance of developing disease?

Senior Research Fellow Dr Justin O’Sullivan

Molecular biologist Dr O’Sullivan explores the impact of your DNA’s ‘packaging’ on your growth, learning and health.

An expert in epigenetics, Dr O’Sullivan has been studying how the structure of a genome can influence long-term health outcomes.

In this fascinating presentation Dr O’Sullivan demonstrates how DNA is wrapped and folded in our cells. He explains how this ‘packaging’ modifies the personal DNA sequence that contributes to your growth and learning, and how it affects your chances of developing diseases like obesity and diabetes.