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A postgraduate research opportunity at the University of Otago.


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Academic background
Health Sciences
Host campus
Pathology and Biomedical Science (Christchurch)
Dr Annika Seddon, Professor Mark Hampton


Mitochondrial dysfunction is proposed to be one of the fundamental hallmarks of ageing.

Mitochondria have a critical role in energy production, and supply essential metabolites for a wide range of cellular processes. These organelles control activities ranging from proliferation and differentiation through to the regulation of inflammation and cell death. Mitochondrial quality declines during ageing, and stem cell exhaustion and cellular senescence is associated with defects in the ability to clear dysfunctional mitochondria through a process termed mitophagy. Interventions that protect mitochondria or promote mitophagy have been shown to improve stem cell function.

We obtained blood samples from participants in the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study. There was evidence of increased mitochondrial dysfunction in faster-ageing individuals, with their platelets having higher levels of mitochondrial oxidative stress. We hypothesize that platelets are indicators of the health of haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). This project will involve culturing HSCs in vitro and differentiating them into the megakaryocytes that produce functional platelets. Drugs that promote mitochondrial dysfunction will be added to the HSCs before differentiation, and the impact on the phenotype of megakaryocytes and platelets will be measured. The student will gain expertise in culturing and genetically modifying stem cells, along with the use of flow cytometry and microscopy.

This is one of a number of projects on offer for the 2024 intake of BBiomedSc(Hons) at the University of Otago, Christchurch campus.

Preferred student expertise

This project would suit a student with a background in any combination of:

  • Cell biology
  • Molecular biology
  • Biochemistry

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Dr Annika Seddon

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