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News archive

Dawn of agriculture linked with poor start to life in ancient Atacama, Chile

Monday, 11 September 2017 9:29am

Learning to cultivate crops and other agricultural food – rather than relying on hunter-gathering – is often thought of as a key milestone in the history of humanity.

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Otago researchers investigate new stroke treatment

Friday, 8 September 2017 1:56pm

New Zealand stroke survivors are being sought by University of Otago researchers for an innovative study that holds promise for restoring their arm and hand function.

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Science-inspired exhibition impresses

Thursday, 31 August 2017 10:01pm

Seeing their research interpreted by artists has given researchers in the University’s Genetics Otago Research Centre a new way to view their own work.

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Otago brain health researchers delve into dopamine

Friday, 25 August 2017 4:03pm

University of Otago researchers studying learning processes affected in brain disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have made new discoveries about how nerve impulses form memories, findings which have implications for developing new therapies for these conditions.

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Otago teachers thrilled with national awards

Thursday, 10 August 2017 10:44am

Three Otago teachers who received national Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards at an event at Parliament this week say they are humbled and honoured to be recognised in this way.

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National excellence of Otago University teachers recognised

Wednesday, 9 August 2017 4:05pm

The sustained contributions of three leading University of Otago staff were recognised in the annual national Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards held last night.

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Secrets of ancient Irish funeral practices revealed

Friday, 4 August 2017 12:17pm

New insights into the lifeways – and death rites – of the ancient people of Ireland are being provided through funerary studies led by a researcher at the University of Otago’s Department of Anatomy.

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Fussy fish use genetic compatibility to pick partners from afar

Thursday, 27 July 2017 11:17am

When salmon spawn, the sperm of competing males are in an all-or-nothing race to be the first to reach and fertilise the eggs.

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Otago cemetery research reveals insights into lives of early settlers

Monday, 24 July 2017 4:58pm

In the first research of its kind in New Zealand, University of Otago researchers are gaining fresh insights into the quality of life and identity of Otago’s early European settlers and farmers through excavating and analysing skeletons from unmarked graves in St. John’s Burial Ground, in Tokoiti, Milton.

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HRC funding to aid deep brain stimulation technology

Wednesday, 28 June 2017 9:47am

Dr Louise Parr-Brownlie has received $1.1M funding from the Health Research Council of New Zealand for a 3 year project grant which aims to improve the quality of life for Parkinson’s disease patients by developing the next generation of deep brain stimulation technology which has greater target specificity and reduced stimulation side effects.

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The fine line between playing God and saving species

Friday, 23 June 2017 12:57pm

New Zealand conservation workers are keen on gene-editing to eradicate pests but would rather avoid “playing God” with native species, a University of Otago study suggests.

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Stomach cancer programme part of HRC funding haul

Wednesday, 21 June 2017 4:31pm

A five-year programme to examine ways of reducing the burden of stomach cancer in New Zealand has received support in the latest Health Research Council (HRC) funding round announced last week, along with 18 other Otago projects.

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The amazing muscle-man a hit at open day

Wednesday, 21 June 2017 4:25pm

PhD student Josh Houlton, aka 'the amazing painted muscle-man' was a hit at the recent University of Otago Tertiary Information Day. 

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May graduation a day to remember

Wednesday, 21 June 2017 4:17pm

The Department shared in the celebrations of its graduates at the recent University of Otago May graduation ceremony.  It was a small but excited group of Anatomy graduands who gathered in the Department to mark the occasion.

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Virtual reality a reality for anatomy dental students

Tuesday, 20 June 2017 4:08pm

Second year Dental students taking the first semester Anatomy paper have been using 3D virtual reality (VR) technology to reinforce their knowledge and understanding of the neuronal pathways of the head and neck.

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Teaching anatomy in Samoa

Tuesday, 20 June 2017 11:30am

Associate Professor George Dias recently spent two weeks at the National University of Samoa (NUS) teaching anatomy.  His visit was part of the ongoing development of the undergraduate medical programme at the University.

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‘Trojan’ females may hold key to pest control

Friday, 16 June 2017 1:54pm

Pests like mice and wasps may one day be eradicated using a new technique which scientists have just proven in the laboratory on fruit flies.

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Teachers using own DNA for human evolution studies

Wednesday, 7 June 2017 12:38pm

School students who may have wondered where their teachers came from may not have to wonder much longer.

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Graduation day wedding proposal “memorable”

Wednesday, 31 May 2017 11:48am

Despite being filled with nerves, Zin Khant Aung dropped to one knee in the University’s Quad and proposed his girlfriend Rosemary Duffy on her graduation day this month – making the important day twice as special for the Bachelor of Applied Science graduate.

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New Zealand fish and chips hold human DNA clues

Wednesday, 26 April 2017 9:27am

Before you pop that piece of battered fish in your mouth, be aware it might just hold the key to understanding the origins of a form of DNA memory critical to human development.

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Major support for Otago health research provided through latest lottery grants

Thursday, 9 March 2017 1:57pm

University of Otago researchers have gained more than $2.6m in funding from the Lottery Grants Board to support studies aimed at improving the health status of New Zealanders.

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Otago welcomes world university subject ranking results

Wednesday, 8 March 2017 4:13pm

The University of Otago welcomed today’s release of the 2017 QS World University Rankings by Subject, in which Otago ranked among the top 50 institutions in the world in five subject areas and among the top 100 in 12.

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Teaching awards honour four Otago staff

Monday, 20 February 2017 9:00pm

Dedication and passion has paid off for four University of Otago staff, who have each received Teaching Excellence Awards from the University.

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Otago gains funding to engage young minds with science

Friday, 17 February 2017 12:22pm

Four University of Otago initiatives are among the latest projects to be successfully awarded a total of $2m in the 2017 Unlocking Curious Minds funding round. The fund particularly focuses on projects that engage young New Zealanders who have fewer opportunities to be involved with science and technology.

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John Reynolds to Direct First Year Health Sciences

Wednesday, 15 February 2017 9:08pm

Professor John Reynolds of Anatomy has been appointed to a newly created role at the University of Otago aimed at overseeing the hugely popular Health Sciences First Year (HSFY) programme.

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Severe inbreeding threatens Long Island’s little spotted kiwi

Wednesday, 18 January 2017 2:02pm

A population of rare little spotted kiwi (LSK) that was thought to be thriving in a Marlborough island sanctuary is actually seriously threatened by the silent effects of inbreeding, new research led by a University of Otago scientist suggests.

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Graduation a special occasion for all

Wednesday, 21 December 2016 1:32pm

The recent December graduation was an extra special occasion for the Department of Anatomy with thirty five students graduating with degrees from the Department - six PhDs, four Masters, three BBiomedSc with Honours, nine BSc Honours, two BA Honours, one Postgraduate Diploma in Science, and ten undergraduate BSc degrees. 

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Professorship tops off wonderful year for Otago academic

Thursday, 15 December 2016 2:28pm

Being promoted to full Professor is the icing on the cake of an incredible year for John Reynolds of Anatomy.

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Biomedical Sciences staff celebrated with awards

Thursday, 15 December 2016 9:51am

A ground-breaking paper on bee fertility, passionate research into the bioarchaeology of children in the past, and outstanding service to the University’s School of Biomedical Sciences were among the achievements celebrated at an awards ceremony yesterday.

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Otago academics made full professor

Wednesday, 14 December 2016 2:25pm

Seventeen leading academics from across the University of Otago’s Dunedin, Christchurch, and Wellington campuses are being promoted to full professor.

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Otago scientists gain Neurological Foundation funding

Friday, 9 December 2016 12:02pm

Several University of Otago researchers have gained funding to pursue innovative projects in the Neurological Foundation’s latest grant round announced today.

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Portable screening device has potential to diagnose heart disease

Tuesday, 6 December 2016 2:28pm

Congratulations to co-principle investigator Dr Yusuf Cakmak who, in collaboration with members from the Auckland Bioengineering Institute, has been awarded a MedTech CoRE Seed project grant of $50,000 to further explore the potential of a portable non-invasive camera-based instrument to measure indicators of heart disease.

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Study on sexual dimorphism judged best paper

Friday, 2 December 2016 11:23am

A paper published by Ann Liu, as first author, in the journal Biology of Sex Differences, has been awarded the Best Postgraduate Paper Prize at the Department’s annual research day.  The paper details the first transcriptomic analysis of sex differences in a protogynous fish.  Using RNA-Seq, the authors characterized the transcriptomic profiles and identified genes exhibiting sex-biased expression in the brain (forebrain and midbrain) and gonads of male and female bluehead wrasses as a first step towards understanding the basal states of the molecular cascade that progressively re-engineers a female into a male.

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PhD candidates produce exceptional theses

Friday, 25 November 2016 1:11pm

Congratulations to Laura Boddington and Papi Gustafson who have both had their doctoral theses placed on the Health Sciences Divisional List of Exceptional Theses.  The list comprises only those doctoral candidates whose research is assessed by examiners as being of an exceptional standard in every respect – research content, originality, quality of expression and accuracy of presentation – and amongst the top 10% of theses examined.

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Hands-On Activities Delight Students

Friday, 18 November 2016 9:12am

School children from around the lower South Island got hands-on with anatomy, conservation genetics and neuroscience activities thanks to the Department of Anatomy and Genetics Otago’s Lab in a Box.  The mobile science laboratory has been touring the South Island, and our staff caught up with it when it visited Te Anau, Gore, Stewart Island and Bluff.

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Marsden Grant Success

Tuesday, 8 November 2016 10:48am

Congratulations to Professor Neil Gemmell, Professor Dave Grattan and Dr Helen Taylor who have been awarded funding from the Royal Society of New Zealand’s Marsden Fund.  The Fund supports research excellence in science, engineering and maths, social sciences and the humanities from all tertiary/research institutions in New Zealand, and is regarded as the hallmark of excellence for research in New Zealand. 


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Vitamins A and C help erase “memory” in stem cells

Friday, 14 October 2016 11:18am

Vitamins A and C can enhance success in the challenging process of converting adult cells into stem cells, an international study co-led by a University of Otago researcher has found.

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How to clone a mammoth

Friday, 14 October 2016 9:16am

Beth Shapiro is an evolutionary biologist who specialises in the genetics of ice age animals and plants. View the podcast of her recent public lecture 'How to clone a mammoth'.

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Thesis of Exceptional Standard

Wednesday, 12 October 2016 3:51pm

Monica Tromp’s PhD Thesis, entitled "Lapita plants, people and pigs", has been placed on the University of Otago’s Health Sciences Divisional List of Exceptional Doctoral theses, after it was deemed to be of exceptional standard by the panel of examiners.  The three experienced examiners graded it among the top 10% of theses they had examined.

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Genetic history of Aboriginal Australians revealed

Thursday, 22 September 2016 10:05am

A University of Otago bioanthropologist is among an international group of scientists who have undertaken the first population genomic study of Aboriginal Australians.

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$14M Funding Success

Thursday, 15 September 2016 10:41am

Researchers from the Department of Anatomy have enjoyed major success with the funding of four projects by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Enterprise (MBIE), together totalling over NZ $14M.

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Another conservation genomics project for the Department of Anatomy!

Tuesday, 30 August 2016 1:46pm

New research project further enhances the Department of Anatomy’s reputation as the home of Conservation Genomics.

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General Staff Award

Tuesday, 9 August 2016 10:51am

Two people have won this year’s University of Otago General Staff Award — Human Nutrition Laboratory Supervising Technician Kieran Columb and Anatomy Teaching Laboratory Manager Fieke Neuman.

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Pacific interests land plum positions in Germany

Wednesday, 3 August 2016 4:21pm

Two Otago Anatomy PhD bioarchaeologists have been accepted for coveted postdoctorate positions at the new Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany.

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University of Otago honours research leader

Friday, 22 July 2016 11:07am

Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith, an internationally renowned biological anthropologist who pioneered the use of evolutionary genetics to trace Pacific migrations, is the latest recipient of the Distinguished Research Medal, the University of Otago’s highest distinction.

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Bringing Anatomy to Life

Monday, 18 July 2016 11:43am

Anatomy staff bring science to life at the International Science festival.

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Health Research Council Funding Success

Tuesday, 28 June 2016 11:39am

Four researchers from the Department of Anatomy have been successful in securing funding worth around $7.3M

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Surgical Approaches Workshop a hit with young surgeons.

Friday, 10 June 2016 11:53am

Over the long Anzac weekend, while most of us were enjoying a relaxing time with family, eight young orthopaedic surgeons were toiling away in the Anatomy Department

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Unique forensic study of early Otago farmers proposed

Monday, 30 May 2016 2:31pm

University of Otago researchers are hoping to shed new light on the quality of life and identity of Otago’s early European settlers and farmers through a proposed study that would involve excavating and analysing skeletons from unmarked graves in Tokoiti, Milton.

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Ancient DNA study finds Phoenician from Carthage had European ancestry

Thursday, 26 May 2016 10:20am

A research team co-led by a University of Otago scientist has sequenced the first complete mitochondrial genome of a 2500-year-old Phoenician dubbed the “Young Man of Byrsa” or “Ariche”, whose tomb was discovered within a hill in Carthage, Tunisia in 1994.

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Research Image Selected for Cover of Prestigious Journal

Thursday, 7 April 2016 12:00pm

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Otago research holds promise for Alzheimer’s diagnostic blood test

Tuesday, 5 April 2016 11:50am

University of Otago researchers have discovered a promising new marker that could help diagnose Alzheimer’s disease — and all that might be required is a simple blood test.

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Research Project Strengthens Link with Max Planck Institute

Friday, 1 April 2016 3:26pm

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Exceptional PhD Thesis

Friday, 1 April 2016 3:18pm

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First evidence found that “cryptic female choice” is adaptive

Wednesday, 23 March 2016 1:12pm

University of Otago researchers studying chinook salmon have provided the first evidence that “cryptic female choice” (CFC) enhances fertilisation success and embryo survival.

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Anatomy Department Teaching Fellow Wins Inclusive Teaching Award

Wednesday, 23 March 2016 5:46pm

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Congratulations! Anatomy Department staff collect seven of the twelve 2015 OSMS awards on offer.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016 5:39pm

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Avatar App To Aid Anatomy Learning

Tuesday, 23 February 2016 2:54pm

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Anatomy Otago: Oh the places you'll go!

Friday, 5 February 2016 9:57am

Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Charlotte King and PhD students Gail Elliott and Anne Sohler-Snoddy have recently returned from a research trip to Chile.

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Anatomy staff dress up for Frocktober

Friday, 9 October 2015 3:28pm

The late Dr Elspeth Gold would be tremendously proud of her colleagues in the Department of Anatomy this month – as men and women alike don dresses to support “Frocktober”.

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Otago researchers sequence kuri dog genomes

Thursday, 8 October 2015 9:56am

The genetic heritage of New Zealand’s first dog, the now extinct kurī, is being unravelled by University of Otago scientists using state-of-the-art ancient DNA analysis.

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Obituary: Dr Elspeth Joan Gold

Monday, 7 September 2015 1:30pm

Dr Elspeth Gold, a highly respected and valued colleague, mentor and friend to many in the University of Otago and beyond, lost her courageous battle with cancer on the 21 August 2015.

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Anatomy Administrator wins 2015 General Staff Award

Tuesday, 18 August 2015 7:45pm

Department of Anatomy Administrator Sally-Ann Howard has won this year’s University of Otago General Staff Award – the second award she has received this year recognising the competence, hard work and warmth she brings to her role.

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Two Administrators win Pride of Workmanship Awards

Thursday, 21 May 2015 9:50pm

Two “wonderful” departmental administrators from opposite ends of the campus were celebrated this week at the Dunedin North Rotary Club’s Pride of Workmanship Awards held at the University Staff Club.

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NZ ancestry study to sample DNA of ex-pats in London

Thursday, 21 May 2015 10:29am

A University of Otago biological anthropologist will head to London in June to collect 200 DNA samples from ex-pats to complete sampling for study of the genetic origins of New Zealanders.

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Otago anatomist contributes to “landmark” text

Wednesday, 20 May 2015 1:57pm

An Otago expert on clinical anatomy has contributed to the world’s first text book on the subject, entitled Teaching Anatomy: A Practical Guide.

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Dental plaque reveals key plant in prehistoric Easter Island diet

Tuesday, 16 December 2014 3:44pm

A University of Otago PhD student analysing dental calculus (hardened plaque) from ancient teeth is helping resolve the question of what plant foods Easter Islanders relied on before European contact.

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Neurological Foundation awards grants to Otago scientists

Thursday, 11 December 2014 3:47pm

Three University of Otago scientists and a PhD graduate have been awarded a total of $471,944 to support their brain research in the Neurological Foundation’s December funding round announced today.

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New Otago study confirms that sperm quality decreases with age

Monday, 1 December 2014 11:59am

Conflicting evidence about the extent to which men’s semen quality declines with age—likely lowering their fertility—is being cleared up by new University of Otago research that has collated and reviewed data from 90 previous studies from around the world.

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Prestigious scholarships for emerging Otago researchers

Thursday, 6 November 2014 4:31pm

Three University of Otago staff members and a two postgraduate students have gained prestigious scholarships in the 2014 Rutherford Foundation Trust Awards.

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Prestigious Rutherford Fellowships won by Otago researchers

Wednesday, 1 October 2014 10:49am

Two talented early to mid-career scientists will return to the University of Otago after gaining highly sought-after Rutherford Discovery Fellowships, which are valued at up to $800,000 each over five years.

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Revolutionary handheld DNA diagnostic unit allows lab-quality analysis in the field

Tuesday, 26 August 2014 8:31am

A revolutionary handheld and battery-powered DNA diagnostic device invented at the University of Otago is poised to become a commonly used field tool for rapidly detecting suspected viruses or bacteria in samples while also determining the level of infection.

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Otago researcher helps sequence sheep genome

Friday, 6 June 2014 9:00am

A University of Otago researcher is among an international team that has sequenced the sheep genome, pinpointing genes that are unique to sheep, including those that help support secretion of the grease needed to maintain wool.

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Researching disaster victim identification after shark attack

Friday, 7 March 2014 4:36pm

Jenny McDowell's PhD from the University of Otago will help identify juvenile victims of marine disasters.

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Otago researchers gain new insights into ancient Pacific settlers’ diet

Thursday, 6 March 2014 3:25pm

Researchers from New Zealand’s University of Otago studying 3000-year-old skeletons from the oldest known cemetery in the Pacific Islands are casting new light on the diet and lives of the enigmatic Lapita people, the likely ancestors of Polynesians.

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Otago neuroscientists’ studies supported

Monday, 16 December 2013 12:41pm

Two University of Otago brain researchers have gained support for their studies into Parkinson’s Disease and stroke recovery in the latest Neurological Foundation funding round.

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Radical new "Trojan Female” pest control approach shows great promise

Wednesday, 30 October 2013 3:51pm

An innovative, non-lethal approach to pest management has the potential to become a “game-changer” in providing lasting and effective control in a wide range of insect and animal pests, according to New Zealand scientists developing the technique.

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Study of salmon sperm success shows need for speed

Wednesday, 23 October 2013 3:25pm

When salmon spawn, males competing to fertilise eggs will win or lose based primarily on their sperm swimming speed, according to a collaborative study by researchers from the University of Otago and the University of Western Australia.

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New Otago research shows early Māori probably suffered from gout

Monday, 21 October 2013 10:21am

Discoveries of early Māori skeletal remains showing tell-tale signs of gout have been corroborated by new evidence that dispels the myth that the disease was largely an upper class European affliction that did not affect any indigenous populations.

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Otago researcher selected to contribute to Australian brain research think tank

Wednesday, 17 July 2013 9:54am

Deputy Director of Otago University’s Brain Health Research Centre, Associate Professor John Reynolds, will travel to Australia next week to attend the 2013 Theo Murphy High Flyers Think Tank.

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Otago scientists gain Neurological Foundation funding

Monday, 15 July 2013 10:44am

University of Otago neuroscientists have gained nearly $390,000 in Neurological Foundation funding for three projects involving stroke recovery, Parkinson’s disease, and improving cognitive performance.

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Light cast on lifestyle and diet of first New Zealanders

Thursday, 16 May 2013 3:25pm

A University of Otago-led multidisciplinary team of scientists have shed new light on the diet, lifestyles and movements of the first New Zealanders by analysing isotopes from their bones and teeth.

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New Zealanders’ genetic diversity to be mapped

Thursday, 6 December 2012 10:00am

A leading University of Otago biological anthropologist has won a prestigious two-year James Cook Research Fellowship to undertake the first-ever survey of the genetic diversity of New Zealand’s population.

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Otago scientists win neurological research funding

Wednesday, 5 December 2012 2:16pm

Three University of Otago scientists have received nearly $300,000 of funding to support their world-class brain-related research in the latest Neurological Foundation grant round.

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Otago researchers map genetic code of NZ’s first settlers

Tuesday, 23 October 2012 9:52am

In a landmark study, University of Otago researchers have achieved the feat of sequencing complete mitochondrial genomes for members of what was likely to be one of the first groups of Polynesians to settle New Zealand and have revealed a surprising degree of genetic variation among these pioneering voyagers.

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Otago researchers reveal new mechanism behind more male autism

Wednesday, 15 August 2012 4:14pm

New University of Otago research into two sex hormones released by the testes of male fetuses and boys may help solve the enduring mystery of why autism is much more common in boys than girls.

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Otago researchers delve into enigmatic burial rituals

Wednesday, 9 May 2012 9:53am

University of Otago researchers working in remote Cambodian mountains are shedding new light on the lost history of an unidentified people by studying their enigmatic burial rituals.

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Charitable blue collar workers most frequent body donors: Otago study

Friday, 20 April 2012 10:09am

People who donate their bodies to science are more likely to be blue collar workers who also regularly give blood, are registered organ donors, and give frequently to charity, according to an international study led by the University of Otago.

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Preventable nerve injuries from treatments need attention: Otago research

Tuesday, 28 February 2012 10:31am

New University of Otago research suggests that a stronger focus is needed on preventing accidental nerve injury during medical treatments in New Zealand.

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Otago academics made full professors

Thursday, 22 December 2011 12:49pm

Fourteen of the University of Otago’s leading academics are being promoted to full professorships.

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Otago research uncovers potential for stroke victims to dramatically regain mobility

Thursday, 4 November 2010 12:45pm

In a discovery with the potential to drastically improve the lives of stroke and head injury victims, University of Otago and UCLA researchers have come up with a drug therapy which could unlock paralysed arms and legs, restoring mobility by up to half.

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Otago Prostate Cancer Research Receives Men’s Health Trust Funding

Wednesday, 18 August 2010 9:09am

Research at Otago University to develop a better screening test for the early detection of prostate cancer has been advanced due to a $30,000 grant from the Men’s Health Trust New Zealand.

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Brain cell communication findings pave way for new therapies

Tuesday, 13 July 2010 2:47pm

A previously hidden mechanism regulating how brain cells communicate has been discovered by a University of Otago scientist in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Aberdeen.

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New insights into the health and lives of New Zealand's first people

Monday, 6 April 2009 11:35am

Initial findings from a University of Otago-led analysis of the koiwi tangata (human remains) of some of the earliest Polynesians to settle New Zealand are shedding new light on their health - including the first evidence of gout among ancient Maori.