Australian and New Zealand Society for Geriatric Medicine

The Australian and New Zealand Society for Geriatric Medicine is the professional society for geriatricians and other medical practitioners with an interest in medical care of older people. The research supported by the Society intends to foster and promote excellence in health care of older persons in Australia and New Zealand. It supports and promotes research in all aspects of ageing - service development, clinical practice and basic science. It research aim is the promotion of research into medical and related problems in older people.

PRESERVE Aotearoa: a feasibility study of a non-pharmacological delirium prevention intervention for hospitalised Maori and non-Maori with advanced cancer

Supervisor

Aileen Collier (027 241 4390)
Annmarie Hosie

Discipline

Australian and New Zealand Society for Geriatric Medicine

Project code: MHS142

Dr Collier’s program of research is aimed at improving safety and quality of palliative care. This study will recruit participants at two hospice sites in New Zealand. You will work alongside Dr Aileen Collier and Dr Annmarie Hosie as part of an international collaboration of world leading delirium researchers in NZ, Australia and Canada. Specifically you will assist with the entry, organization and analysis of qualitative and/or quantitative data.

This project would suit a health care student with an interest in delirium prevention and/or management. You will also have an interest in learning about mixed methods and gain skills in project management and preparing research outputs. Previous students working with our group have published first authored papers in international leading journals and been successful with prestigious external postgraduate scholarship applications. For more information about us please see Te Arai Research Group. Please get in touch with Aileen to discuss further.

 

Multimorbidty in older adults

Supervisor

Ruth Teh (930 7517)
Ngaire Kerse

Discipline

Australian and New Zealand Society for Geriatric Medicine

Project code: MHS169

Multimorbidity is prevalent in older adults with an average of five conditions in those aged 80+. In a longitudinal study of advanced age (LiLACS NZ), six distinctive patterns of multimobidity were identified for both Maori and non-Maori living in New Zealand. We found patterns of multimorbidity were better predictors of hospitalization and mortality than the presence or absence of a single condition.

This summer studentship will be part of a larger research project which will examine if patterns of multimorbidity change over time and the impact on health outcomes (hospitalization, frailty status). Specifically, this summer studentship aims to determine the prevalence and incidence of chronic health conditions from two large datasets.

This project will suit someone who takes pride in his/her meticulous work and comfortable working with spreadsheet.

Skills taught

  • Literature Review,
  • Data analysis
  • Report writing and preparing a paper for publication

Exploring medication safety and wellbeing with frail older people and their families and whanau across care settings using video reflexive ethnography

Supervisor

Aileen Collier (027 241 4390)
Deborah Balmer

Discipline

Australian and New Zealand Society for Geriatric Medicine

Project code: MHS173

Dr Collier’s program of research is aimed at improving safety and quality of palliative care. The work of the Te Arai Palliative Care and End of Life Research Group is underpinned by a philosophy of ‘Nothing about us without us’. As part of an international collaboration with an interdisciplinary team of researchers in NZ and Scotland you will work alongside Dr Aileen Collier and Dr Deborah Balmer to learn about participatory visual methods. Specifically you will assist with: analysing a variety of qualitative data including filmed health care practices and patients’ and families’/whanau interviews. This will include helping write an academic manuscript for the study.

This project would suit a medical, nursing or pharmacy student with an interest in complexity and wellbeing theories and polypharmacy. You will also have an interest in the use of innovative visual methods. You will learn about the theory and practice of video reflexive ethnography methodology and gain skills in writing for publication. Previous students working with our group have published first authored papers in international leading journals and been successful with prestigious external postgraduate scholarship applications.

Please get in touch with Aileen to discuss further.

Older adult participation in physical activity

Supervisor

Katherine Bloomfield
Martin Connolly
Zhenqiang Wu

Discipline

Australian and New Zealand Society for Geriatric Medicine

Project code: MHS174

Exercise is of proven benefit in many medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, and depression, among others. Positive effects are also seen in older age, and exercise is beneficial in the prevention of falls, frailty and sarcopenia.

The aim of this project is to explore older adult participation in physical activity. This project consists of three components. First, a literature review assessing barriers and facilitators of older adult engagement in exercise will be undertaken. Following this, we will explore factors associated with participation in exercise amongst a cohort of older adults. Our research group has recently completed data acquisition from a large study of ~580 older adults residing in retirement villages. We have extensive health and social information about this cohort, including around exercise and retirement village facilities. Finally if time permits, based on the information identified in earlier phases, we will develop a survey exploring NZ older adult attitudes to exercise, including barriers/potential facilitating factors.

Results from the first two parts of this study will be used to prepare a manuscript for submission to a medical journal, and the final component for utilisation in a future study.

Skills

  • Literature review/synthesis
  • Data extraction/management
  • Statistical analysis
  • Draft manuscript preparation

Detecting eye pathology in elderly patients using novel vision assessment devices

Supervisor

Dr Stuti Misra
Dr James McKelvie

Discipline

Australian and New Zealand Society for Geriatric Medicine

Project code: MHS175

Vision impairment is common in the elderly and can cause significant morbidity, impaired quality of life, loss of independence, and risk of falls. Many elderly people do not have easy access to ophthalmic assessment. The ability to accurately assess vision using new tools, including mobile technology, is essential for elderly people in care facilities with limited access to quality ophthalmic assessments. The project will involve testing visual acuity and contrast sensitivity in a retired population using novel mobile technology. Vision-related quality of life will be assessed and correlated with visual acuity and contrast sensitivity. It is envisaged that this project will result in a peer-reviewed journal publication in a scientific journal.

Skills

The successful student will learn:

  • basic clinical ophthalmic history and examination
  • measurement of visual acuity 
  • application of statistics
  • data analysis
  • machine learning
  • how to structure and prepare the first draft of a scientific paper

Using mobile technology and machine learning to detect refractive error pre and post cataract surgery

Supervisor

Dr James McKelvie
Dr Stuti Misra

Discipline

Australian and New Zealand Society for Geriatric Medicine

Project code: MHS176

Refractive error is a significant source of visual loss before and after cataract surgery. Assessing and correcting residual refractive error following cataract surgery is essential for optimal quality of life and good vision, however, it is a time consuming and expensive process for patients. There are several devices that have been developed for testing vision and refractive error including a novel smartphone coupled device. This new device has not been tested or compared with existing devices that measure refractive error in a clinical setting. This project is to assess and compare refractive error using several devices including a novel smartphone coupled device. Patients who are listed for cataract surgery will have their refraction tested before and after cataract surgery. The refractive results from all devices will be compared to assess the accuracy and repeatability of measurements. It is envisaged that this project will result in a peer-reviewed journal publication in a scientific journal.

Skills

The successful student will learn:

  • basic clinical ophthalmic history and examination
  • measurement of visual acuity and refractive error
  • application of statistics
  • data analysis
  • machine learning
  • how to structure and prepare the first draft of a scientific paper

3D MRI Atlas of Bottlenose Dolphin Neuroanatomy

Supervisor

Associate Professor Miriam Scadeng (ext 89659)
Dr David Dubowitz

Discipline

Australian and New Zealand Society for Geriatric Medicine

Project code: MHS181

The brains of dolphins have striking resemblance to humans, in both size and structure, and it would appear that much of their function parallels human function, including language processing. The dolphin being a long-lived, large brained mammal, is proving to be an unexpectedly useful model for the study of human ageing and dementia. The development of a high resolution atlas based on 3D MRI imaging to act as a road map for future studies such as additional DTI and functional MRI studies, is a vital first step to moving the field forward. The MR imaging data for this project has been acquired and has already been part segmented.

Skills acquired during the project

  • in depth knowledge of neuroanatomy (human and dolphin)
  • data segmentation.

Suitable project for neuroscientist or medical student.

Envisioned outcome

publication of atlas as a paper.

References:
Wright A, Theilmann R , Ridgway S, Scadeng M. Diffusion tractography reveals pervasive asymmetry of cerebral white matter tracts in the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) Brain Struct Funct. 2017 DOI : 10.1007/s00429-017-1474-3

Wright A, Scadeng M, Stec D, Dubowitz R, Ridgway S, Leger JS. Neuroanatomy of the killer whale (Orcinus orca): a magnetic resonance imaging investigation of structure with insights on function and evolution. Brain Struct Funct. 2017 Jan;222(1):417-436. doi: 10.1007/s00429-016-1225-x.

Prospective monitoring of men to understand their current health performances compared to characteristics collected over ten years before.

Supervisor

Nishi Karunasinghe (ext 84609)

Discipline

Australian and New Zealand Society for Geriatric Medicine

Project code: MHS184

We are planning an extended data collection from a study that we have conducted between 2006 and 2009 with 572 New Zealand men. New Zealand being a low selenium state, the concluded study was carried out to assess relevance of selenium for optimising health in New Zealand men using a biomarker approach.

With the proposed study extension, we wish to monitor the participants to understand their current health outcomes which we wish to assess in relation to their baseline data we have recorded 10-12 years before. This involves administering a questionnaire to collect their current health status. You are required to carry out subsequent statistical analysis of newly acquired data alongside available baseline data including lifestyle characteristics, serum trace element profiles and biomarkers stratified by genetics.

Your communication skills will be important in reaching the participants to get the questionnaires completed and returned to the study centre. Additionally, you should have basic statistical skills to evaluate and interpret the data. 

Metabolites and prostate cancer- a literature review

Supervisor

Nishi Karunasinghe (ext 84609)
George Guo

Discipline

Australian and New Zealand Society for Geriatric Medicine

Project code: MHS185

Although the standardized prostate cancer (PCa) incidence rates are highest in New Zealand and Australia, estimates on slow growing indolent and clinically inapparent latent PCa show that the rates are comparable between countries with western lifestyle [2]. Evidence including a systematic review and meta-analysis is available for the consequences of BMI and insulin resistance in PCa and its progression [3] which are features common with the western lifestyle. Conventional methods of assessing impacts of dietary patterns in disease aetiology have used methods such as food frequency questionnaires and diet diaries.

However, with advanced mass spectrometry technology, measurement of diet-related metabolite recognition has been made possible and have been checked for the association with cancer incidence and progression. Studies have reported various dietary metabolites in association with prostate cancer, its progression and prostate cancer specific-mortality.

The current project is towards working on a literature review on the interaction of metabolic profiles, genetics and PCa. Information on metabolite intensity response with PCa as well as metabolite origins from diet should also be reviewed. The review should also include available approaches for metabolite profiling, current software used in data extraction and statistical models reported in data analysis.

You are required to assess literature based on major science databases including PubMed, Medline. You have to build up your reference library along with this literature review.

Preference will be given to someone with statistical interest and good grades in statistics. Experience in literature reviewing skills is an asset for your future academic work. Exposure to understanding data extraction and analyses methods will help you in decision making towards your future academic goals.

Please feel free to discuss further potential advantages of this opportunity with your supervisors.

CGRP and innervation in bone healing

Supervisor

Brya Matthews
Dorit Naot

Discipline

Australian and New Zealand Society for Geriatric Medicine

Project code: MHS186

Regeneration and healing involves generation of new tissue that includes vasculature and innervation. The role of peripheral sensory neurons that innervate healing bone is poorly defined. The periosteum, a critical source of new osteoblasts during fracture repair, is the most densely innervated bone compartment. Despite indications that sensory innervation promotes growth, maintenance and healing of bone, the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. CGRP is a strong candidate mediator of these effects. We have an established colony of CGRP knockout mice.

The goal of this project is to evaluate how CGRP affects bone healing and the signalling mechanisms associate with this. Projects could involve evaluating bone healing, innervation and vascularisation using an injury model, in knockout and wild-type mice; investigating changes in CGRP knockout periosteum in the absence of injury; in vitro investigation of CGRP signalling mechanisms in bone cells.

Techniques potentially include:

  • primary cell isolation and culture
  • real time PCR
  • western blotting
  • histology and immunostaining
  • animal surgery
  • microCT


Hands on experience in some lab techniques preferred. Students who are considering continuing with a research-based degree (Honours or Masters) are particularly encouraged to apply.

Grip strength and cardiovascular disease in older adults

Supervisor

Ruth Teh (930 7517)

Discipline

Australian and New Zealand Society for Geriatric Medicine

Project code: MHS188

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of mortality in New Zealand. Conventional risk factors for CVD are age, male gender, cigarette smoking, diabetes, hypertension, total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol levels. These risk factors were identified from a younger population and current CVD risk assessment is predictive of 5-year CVD risk for adults up to age 75. Clinical utility of the current CVD risk assessment for adults 75+ is remain unclear. Findings suggest adults living to advanced age (80+) have a different CVD risk factor profile.

The aims of this summer studentship is to determine the prevalence and incidence of CVD in the very old and examine the association between grip strength and CVD in this age group.

This project will suit someone who are interested in cardiovascular health and takes pride in his/her meticulous work.

Skills taught

  • Literature Review
  • Data analysis
  • Report writing and preparing a paper for publication

How do you eat an aggregate? One bite at a time

Supervisor

Emma Scotter (923 1350)

Discipline

Australian and New Zealand Society for Geriatric Medicine

Project code: MHS189

Motor neuron disease is a fatal and incurable movement disorder affecting ~1 in 15,000 New Zealanders. The brain tissue of people with motor neuron disease harbours aggregated proteins, the formation of which is likely to be neurotoxic. This project seeks to use cultured cells expressing mutant versions of these aggregating proteins, together with small interfering RNAs, to test the molecular requirements for protein aggregation and disposal. By determining how protein aggregation is seeded and reversed in motor neuron disease, we hope to determine an upstream therapeutic target for sidestepping the protein aggregation process.