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Research in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine

Rangahau – Te Tari Whai Mokoroa, Rongoā Rāpoi Ngota

The Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine is an active and productive member of the research community. It is dedicated to investigating disease processes to facilitate effective treatments and improve health outcomes. Departmental staff and students regularly present at meetings and conferences and publish in peer reviewed publications.

Current research activities within the Department focus on the causes and behaviour of various cancers with a specific emphasis on prostrate, kidney, breast, cervix, and bladder malignancy. Urogenital pathology and dental research are also areas of research interest.

Major areas of research


Dr Ayesha Verrall is an infectious diseases physician and epidemiologist expert in Tuberculosis.

Dr Verrall studies how some people are immune to infection by Tuberculosis, a trait called early clearance. Early clearance is associated with BCG vaccination and mediated by trained innate immunity.

Through Otago’s Global Health Institute, Dr Verrall has collaborated with scientists in Indonesia and the Netherlands to describe early clearance in household contacts of TB cases. She currently has a New Zealand Health Research Council Emerging Researcher grant to discover how BCG vaccination induces epigenetic changes in immune cells that protect against TB, a study nested in a BCG re-vaccination RCT in Indonesia.

Dr Verrall also collaborates with scientists in the Netherlands to understand how TB can evade BCG mediated protection.

In New Zealand, Ayesha leads the New Zealand Health of Migrants and Tuberculosis Elimination (New HOME) study to improve TB control. She has led the writing of guidelines for TB control in New Zealand.

Urogenital Pathology

Research activities are focussed on the classification, diagnosis, molecular biology, growth kinetics, and outcome prediction for adult and childhood renal tumours. Other areas of research are: the pathogenesis and spread of bladder cancer; the pathenogenesis, diagnosis and behaviour of testicular tumours and prostate cancer; and progeria kidney.

Molecular Pathology

The Wakefield Biomedical Research Unit moved to the department from Wakefield Hospital in 2009. It has a strong research focus on the molecular basis of the spread of colorectal cancer and the fundamental cause of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Prostate Cancer Research

The Prostate Cancer Trials Unit is a research unit within the department participating in international and local clinical trials to treat prostate cancer. Research activities are focussed on the classification, in particular the Gleason categories, diagnosis and effective treatment of prostate cancer.

Innovation in Pathology Education

We consider the impact and value of technology enhanced learning within medical education. We clarify what motivates students to use technology based learning and trial various methods of delivering learning using interactive technologies. We discover the links between educational psychology learning theory and our practical research findings. Technologies we have investigated include the kuraCloud platform, Peerwise MCQ writing and Facebook as a motivational and educational tool. We have investigated the best way to deliver flipped classroom and to scaffold e‑learning. Currently we are investigating how technology can best be used to deliver spaced learning medical education and how team‑based learning can be delivered by video link.

Pathology Day
Science with Schools and Kura Kaupapa Māori
Te Whakatūwheratanga
Medical Science Education lectures, perspectives from Professor Neil Osheroff