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Up-and-coming Otago scientists gain Health Research Council funding


Monday 22 May 2017 12:05pm

Two University of Otago staff have received emerging researcher first grants in the Health Research Council’s 2017 funding round announced today:

Dr Moritz Lassé
(Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch)
Improving risk assessment for worsening kidney function in heart failure
$170,877, 36 months

Heart failure goes hand-in-hand with a high risk of kidney injury. Kidney injury occurs in 25 per cent of all heart failure patients and nearly doubles mortality rates. Many patient lives could be saved if clinicians could diagnose kidney injury early, enabling better patient management. Currently, rising plasma levels of creatinine are used as a marker for the onset of kidney injury. However, creatinine only rises days after irreparable damage to the kidneys has occurred. This is too late to adjust treatment of the patient, hence new early markers are needed to detect kidney injury before irreversible damage occurs. This research project aims to use mass spectrometry to identify plasma proteins involved in the first phase of kidney damage as potential new biomarkers for kidney injury. The focus will be on proteins of the cell-senescence pathway, as these molecules have been proposed as exciting biomarker candidates for acute kidney injury.

Dr Damian Scarf
(Department of Psychology)
Extending brief alcohol interventions using mobile technology
$232,371, 36 months

Adolescents have the highest alcohol consumption of any age group. Within this high risk age group, university students stand out, consuming more alcohol than their non-university attending peers. As a result, university students not only have a higher incidence of alcohol use disorders, but also report a higher incidence of alcohol-related harms. The primary aim of the research project is to use mobile technology to extend a brief web-based alcohol intervention. Specifically, Ecological Momentary Interventions (EMIs) in the form of text messages will be used to remind participants of the implications of drinking too much. Short-term health benefits include reductions in acute harms such as blackouts and negative sexual experiences. Long-term health benefits include reduced risk of diseases and conditions that result from the cumulative effects of alcohol.