Hope Foundation

The Hope Foundation for Research on Ageing is a charitable trust dedicated to sponsoring research on ageing and its effects on the New Zealand community. Preparing New Zealand for an ageing future. The New Zealand population is undergoing a major demographic transformation and is facing an epidemic in ageing. In 1966, 12% of the population was 64 and over, in 2040 it will be 24%. The social impact of a significant proportion of the population being "non-working" has major implications for our society in economic, demographic, town planning, infrastructural and health-related areas. Positive ageing means that older age is both viewed and experienced positively and includes changing attitudes and expectations amongst younger generations regarding ageing and older people. The Foundation’s hope is that by encouraging interest in research in the field of ageing at the start of a career, that interest will be maintained throughout the individual’s productive research life.

2. A systematic or Integrative review ‘Health promotion strategies for women after stroke'

Supervisor

Dr Julia Slark
Dr Bobbi Laing

Discipline

Hope Foundation

Project code: MHS149

Choose the methodology of a systematic or Integrative review. Use a clear and precise search and selection criteria which is described clearly so that another researcher can duplicate the searches and the study selection. From this review (a) analyse and compare articles, identify themes and determine gaps in the current research, and draw conclusions. (b) Where applicable identify evidence based practice and describe how this can be incorporated into clinical practice.

Which bacterial species are causing prosthetic joint infections? A clinical study

Supervisor

Mark Zhu (027 365 4986)

Discipline

Hope Foundation

Project code: MHS157

Prosthetic joint infection is a serious complication following total knee arthroplasty and has significant costs for both the patient and the healthcare system. In order to improve our treatment of PJI, it is important to identify and analyse the bacterial species causing disease. The aims of this project are to identify the leading bacterial species causing PJI, and clarify the effect of this on treatment success.

Studentship goals

Currently, we have ethics approval and have gathered data on bacterial species and treatment outcomes. The student will add to this database, collate the results, perform statistical analysis and prepare a manuscript for submission in an orthopaedic journal.

Pre-requisites

Motivated student who can see the project to completion (including publication), ability to write academically and sound organisational skills.

Skills taught

  • Literature review
  • basic statistical analysis
  • database management 
  • academic writing

It is expected that the student will achieve at least one submitted manuscripts for publication from this studentship. 

Deinstitutionalisation of Mental Hospitals in New Zealand: An Oral History Project

Supervisor

Kate Prebble (923 3413)

Discipline

Hope Foundation

Project code: MHS164

Deinstitutionalisation of mental hospitals in the late twentieth century has had a significant impact on the way in which mental health services are provided internationally. The rapid closure of institutions and shift to community care was arguably the most significant change in mental health service delivery for over 100 years. In New Zealand, reduction of institutional beds became official government policy from 1972. This translated into policy over the next two decades through reduction in bed numbers, discharge of patients into rest homes, half-way houses and other residential settings, and the establishment of community services and acute mental health units attached to general hospitals.

The aim of this Summer Studentship is to create an annotated text of recorded memories shared within a Witness Seminar on deinstitutionalisation of mental hospitals in New Zealand, 1970 to 2000. Through a structured process of group discussion, people who were involved in implementing the deinstitutionalisation policy will be invited to share their experiences and to discuss certain events and/or phenomena.

Skills

The project would suit a student studying NZ history and/or the social history of medicine. The student will develop skills in recording oral history, historical research and preparing a document for online publication. 

Selenium and interacting mineral profiles in reducing prostate cancer risk in New Zealand

Supervisor

Nishi Karunasinghe (ext 84609)
Nicholas Demarais
Stuart Morrow

Discipline

Hope Foundation

Project code: MHS172

Prostate cancer is the most commonly registered male non-skin cancer in New Zealand with 3129 and 3383 cases recorded in 2013 and 2016 respectively; while being the third most common cause of cancer deaths [647 deaths in 2013]. According to the estimates from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the age standardised global incidence rates of prostate cancer is highest in New Zealand and Australia. The excess cost of all prevalent cases of prostate cancer in New Zealand in 2010-2011 period was NZ$ 48.6M and approximate cost per individual diagnosed case was NZ$16,000. Therefore prostate cancer incidence in New Zealand carries a significant public health burden.

Meanwhile, New Zealand soils are notorious for low selenium levels, and New Zealand men both with and without prostate cancer carry lower levels of serum selenium levels compared to both African American men as well as European American men. However, there is contradictory evidence on the benefit of selenium supplementation for prostate cancer prevention. We have a cohort of men who took part in a selenium supplementation trial in New Zealand, and provided blood samples at both baseline and at six month time points towards biomarker assays. This study has already indicated that selenium supplementation benefits vary by age, BMI, dietary factors, heath status, standing levels of DNA damage and genetics. It will be a great leap if we can stratify New Zealand men to reduce their prostate cancer risk by adjusting their circulating selenium levels.

Meanwhile, it is also known that the major selenoenzyme, the glutathione peroxidase 1 to function, there should be other factors in the oxidation-reduction pathway in place. These include the Cu Zn Superoxide dismutase (SOD1) and Mn Superoxide dismutase (SOD2) and the haem containing enzyme catalase. For the selenoenzyme iodothyronine deiodinase to function, there should be accompanying support from iodine levels. Therefore, it is important to understand the levels of Cu, Zn, Mn, I and Fe alongside levels of Se to understand interactive benefits of these minerals in managing oxidation-reduction pathways. Meanwhile, evidence from animal studies indicate that supplemented Se can cause changes in other mineral levels.

The current assessment is therefore towards

  1. Understanding changes taking place in plasma levels of Se, Cu, Zn, Mn, I and Fe before and after men were supplemented with 200 micro grams of Se per day for six months.
  2. Understanding whether their naturally available levels of these minerals at baseline can be predictive of prospective cancer status.
  3. Whether the above goals have an association with genotype data (already available for these men).

The main laboratory technique used in this analysis is the Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS), based at the School of Biological Sciences.

This is an opportunity to study real-life participant samples and to analyse the mineral profile outcomes with other meta-data already available for this cohort. Mass-Spectrometry based analyses are of immense value and increasingly being used in medical, nutritional and health sciences. Exposure to the laboratory techniques and data analyses skills will help you in advancing your academic career and in decision making towards your future academic goals.

The selected applicant should be someone who enjoys laboratory techniques, has attention to detail, responsible and persevering.

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

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

Hope Foundation

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

Hope Foundation

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

Hope Foundation

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

Hope Foundation

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

Lens fibre cells and epithelial cells: how does lens develop transparency?

Supervisor

Haruna Suzuki-Kerr (923 8728)
Julie Lim

Discipline

Hope Foundation

Project code: MHS178

The ocular lens of the eye is a remarkable tissue in that it is able to maintain its transparency over many decades of life. This is due to the highly structured cellular architecture of the lens comprised of cuboidal lens epithelial cells and elongated fibre cells. Lens fibre cells are derived from epithelial cells through processes of proliferation and differentiation. Numerous studies published from our laboratory have shown that differential expression and trafficking of proteins in epithelial cells and mature fibre cells are critical for maintaining the lens transparency.

Lens epithelial cells can be cultured and induced to differentiate into fibre cells in vitro. This project aims to establish a new experimental protocol for culturing rodent lens epithelial cells as a platform for manipulating gene expression in these cells and monitoring them live. The participating student will prepare rodent lens epithelial cell explant culture, transfect with fluorescent fusion proteins and monitor expression and trafficking of proteins.

The successful applicant should have a basic background in biology and physiology. Interest in postgraduate research programmes will be preferable, but not essential.

Skills the student will learn

  • Tissue dissection and culturing
  • DNA transfection
  • Fluorescent and Confocal microscopy
  • Image analysis 
  • Scientific report writing

Novel insight into the development of hearing organ

Supervisor

Haruna Suzuki-Kerr (923 8728)
Professor Peter R Thorne

Discipline

Hope Foundation

Project code: MHS179

Our sense of hearing starts in an inner ear organ called the cochlea containing ciliated hair cells, supporting cells and neurons. Hair cells are primary auditory sensory cells and their death results in sensorineuronal deafness. In addition to hair cells, there are eight different types of supporting cells arranged in highly ordered architecture within the cochlear sensory epithelium. While these supporting cells are emerging as key players in cochlear pathology, much remains unclear about their precise roles, development and how they respond in early phases of neurotoxic injuries.

Previous studies in our laboratory have found transient expression of a group of purinergic receptors in supporting cells during development, but the reason is not known. To investigate this further, this project aims to identify different types of supporting cells in developing cochlea, and characterise purinergic receptor expression in each cell type. Participating student will be conducting hands-on laboratory work from dissection of rodent cochlea, immunohistochemistry and microscopy.

The successful applicant should have a basic background in biology and physiology. Interest in postgraduate research programmes will be preferable, but not essential.

Skills the student will learn

  • Fluorescent microscopy
  • tissue dissection
  • immunohistochemistry
  • confocal microscopy
  • image analysis 
  • scientific report writing

3D MRI Atlas of Bottlenose Dolphin Neuroanatomy

Supervisor

Associate Professor Miriam Scadeng (ext 89659)
Dr David Dubowitz

Discipline

Hope Foundation

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

Hope Foundation

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

Hope Foundation

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

Hope Foundation

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.

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

Supervisor

Emma Scotter (923 1350)

Discipline

Hope Foundation

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.