Research in Aberdeen

We support research across all the fields of clinical, biomedical, physical or engineering sciences related to medicine. The following are awards made to researchers working in Aberdeen's universities and hospitals since 2004. [Link to information about awards made between 1992 and 2003]

Awards in 2013-14

PhD Studentships awarded during 2013-14 included the following to Aberdeen University:

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Dr Alasdair MacKenzie (School of Medical Sciences) will be supervising Ms Elizabeth Hay during her PhD Studentship "The effects of genetic and epigenetic variation on the control of the cannabinoid-1 receptor gene and their role in disease and drug efficacy". This research will also involve close working with GW Pharmaceuticals.
The cannabinoid-1 receptor protein (CB1) has been implicated in obesity, addiction and chronic inflammatory disease and represents an excellent drug target for their treatment. However, promising drugs designed against CB1 can cause unacceptable side-effects in a proportion of patients. Little evidence exists that mutations in the gene that makes CB1 are involved in disease progression or drug side effects. Could mis-regulation of the CB1 gene be to blame? We have shown that obesity and addiction associated mutations alter genetic control switches required to regulate the healthy expression of the CB1 gene. We also show that activating the CB1 protein activates these switches, demonstrating self-regulation, but that disease-associated mutations disable these control switches. These mutations also change susceptibility of the switches to epigenetic modification; a process influenced by early life events. We will further investigate the switches that regulate the CB1 gene in brain regions that control inflammation and appetite where we believe genetics and the environment interact to influence disease susceptibility and drug-side effects. This project will also test novel drug treatments in development by GW Pharmaceuticals to manipulate these switches aiming to accelerate the development of personalised cures for inflammatory diseases, addiction and obesity.

Undergraduate Vacation Scholarships were awarded as follows:
Chelsea Cook (Pharmacology) supervised by Professor Roger Pertwee, for a project entitled, A search for novel positive and negative allosteric modulators of the cannabinoid CB1 receptor
Natasha Walker (Biomedical Sciences) supervised by Dr Nicola Mutch, for a project entitled, The Janus face of FXII - a potential role in coagulation and fibrinolysis

Awards in 2012-13

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Dr Berndt Mueller (School of Medical Sciences) will be supervising Miss Jihan Anderson during her PhD Studentship "Identification and correction of the molecular and cellular defects in neurons caused by deregulation of the novel autism susceptibility gene EIF4E - an opportunity to develop treatments for autism". This research will also involve close working with Dundee Cell Products.
Autism is an as yet untreatable but common lifelong childhood-onset neurodevelopmental disorder affecting 1 in 200 individuals. The underlying genetics is complex and poorly understood. We have identified EIF4E as an autism susceptibility gene. In addition, mutations in several genes known to control the activity of eIF4E protein cause autism or syndromes with autistic features. Together, this strongly supports our hypothesis that over-expression of eIF4E protein predisposes to autism and we propose that correction of eIF4E over-expression could form the basis of effective treatment of autism. To test this we will identify the abnormalities caused by eIF4E over-expression in neurones using two complementary approaches: we will determine the effect of eIF4E over-expression on the differentiation and behaviour of neurones using live-cell microscopy and immunocytochemistry, and we will identify changes in protein components caused by eIF4E over-expression using state-of-the-art protein profiling methods. Together, this will increase our understanding of the underlying molecular events leading to the development of autism. We will produce reagents for the detection of proteins whose levels are changed, as they may serve as marker proteins for autism. Finally, we will test whether any changes occurring in neurones when eIF4E is over-expressed can be reversed by compounds known to control eIF4E activity. This work will produce reagents to identify subjects with autism caused by dysregulation of eIF4E and will lead to screens that are expected to identify novel compounds to treat this condition.

Undergraduate Vacation Scholarships were awarded as follows:
Akvile Bartuskaite (Immunology & Pharmacology, Aberdeen University) supervised by Dr Heather Wallace to study polyamine conjugates as a possible a new means of anticancer drug delivery.
Mirela Dimitrova (Biomedical Sciences, Aberdeen University) supervised by Professor Richard Aspden, to investigate the histology of subchondral bone in osteoarthritis.
Konstantin Gizdov (Physics, Aberdeen University) supervised by Dr Alessandro Moura for mathematical modelling of DNA replication in conditions of dNTP scarcity.
Gyavira Mbogo (Biomedical Sciences, Aberdeen University) supervised by Dr Jon Collinson to study the genetic basis of clubfoot.
Abisoye Olaifa (Immunology & Pharmacology, Aberdeen University) supervised by Dr Isabel Crane to study the role of C-reactive protein in age-related macular degeneration.
Armin Oskooi (Biomedical Science, Aberdeen University) supervised by Dr Milena Delibegovic to investigate further the link between inflammation and type 2 diabetes.
Aiden Seeley (Biomedical Sciences, Aberdeen University) supervised by Professor Meip Helfrich to study bone using electron microscopy methods.
Aleksandra Staniszewska (Medicine, Aberdeen University) supervised by Dr Julie Brittenden to investigate dimethylarginines and all-cause mortality in patients with peripheral arterial disease.
Delaram Varzi (Medicine, Aberdeen University) supervised by Dr Rebecca Barr to investigate the relationship between osteoarthritis and osteoporosis using Dual energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA) images.

Awards in 2011-12

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Dr Heather Wilson* (Institute of Medical Sciences) will be supervising Miss Miriam Obliers during her PhD Studentship, "Novel small molecule modulators of the antioxidant response pathway: potential for therapy in cancer/inflammatory disease". This research will also involve close working with Aquapharm BioDiscovery Ltd.
This project aims to develop a tiered screening strategy to detect the activity of novel secondary metabolites from purified extracts of marine organisms which show promise for the potential future development of new anti-cancer and/or anti-inflammatory drugs. The work will first try to identify which purified compounds show strong functional activity, but with minimum cell toxicity or induction of apoptosis, then the specific mechanisms and cell signalling pathways involved which allow these compounds to exert their functional ability. Thereafter, their pharmacological effects, in both in vitro model tumour cell systems and established inflammatory cell systems. Understanding the mechanisms of action and likely clinical effectiveness of potent, non-toxic and non-electrophilic compounds derived from natural marine-based secondary metabolites will be of huge benefit in developing lead compounds with minimum 'off target' effects for these two important therapeutic areas.
[*Dr Wilson has taken over this award, following the death of Professor Hawksworth, to whom it was made originally.]

Undergraduate Vacation Scholarships were awarded as follows:
Mr Vojtech Prazak (Microbiology, Aberdeen University) supervised byDr Samantha Miller, to investigate the lipid-protein interactions of the YnaI mechanosensitive channel.
Ms Katrina Wallen (Neuroscience, Aberdeen University) supervised by Dr Peter Teismann, to investigate whether licorice extract can provide protection against Parkinson's disease.

Awards in 2010-11

£149,861 to Dr Bing Lang, Dr Sanbing Shen & Professor Colin D. McCaig (Institute of Medical Sciences, Aberdeen University) and Dr Colin Smith (Pathology, Western General Hospital, Edinburgh), for a three-year project aiming to uncover novel biomarkers for schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder affect 1 in 50 people. No effective medication is available and current antipsychotic drugs often have unpleasant side-effects. This project aims to explain aspects of abnormal brain development in schizophrenia and identify new biomarkers which may be useful in future drug development.

Undergraduate Vacation Scholarships were awarded as follows:
Ms Joanne Healy (Medicine, Aberdeen University) supervised by Professor Helen Galley, to study the potential of piracetam to protect mitochondria in sepsis and neuropathy.
Mr Jay Hutchison (Microbiology, Aberdeen University) supervised by Dr Mirla Delibegovic, to study the role of protein-tyrosine phosphatase 18 in the regulation of AMPK signalling.
Ms Emma Joseph (Human Embryology & Developmental Biology, Aberdeen University) supervised by Dr Bing Lang, to investigate the role of a novel serine/theomine kinase in neurite outgrowth.
Ms Vojtech Prazak (Medical Microbiology, Aberdeen University) supervised by Dr Samantha Miller, to carry out structure-function studies of critical gating residues in mechanosensitive channels.
Ms Marta Wylot (Sports & Exercise Science, Aberdeen University) supervised by Dr Aivaras Ratkevicius, to investigate whether inhibition of mitochondrial citrate synthase can be used in prevention of obesity.

Awards in 2006-07

£79,938 to Dr Sharon Mitchell & Professor John Speakman (Integrative Physiology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen), for an 18-month project to investigate early onset of leptin insensitivity in response to high-fat diet.
This study will investigate the changes occurring in the brain as obesity develops, notably a reduction in responsiveness to the hormone leptin which regulates food intake, with the aim of identifying possible targets for future drug development.

Awards in 2005-06

£66,210 to Dr Keith Kelso Hussey, Miss Julie Brittenden (Vascular Surgery Unit, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary), Dr Isobel Ford, Dr Frank Thies & Professor Michael Greaves (Department of Medicine & Therapeutics, University of Aberdeen) for a one-year randomised controlled trial of oral L-arginine supplementation on platelet and endothelial function and walking distance in patients with peripheral arterial disease.
People with peripheral arterial disease (hardening of the leg arteries) tend to have 'sticky' blood and, as well as this increasing their risk of death from heart disease, they also have difficulty walking any distance. This project will investigate the benefits of adding the semi-essential amino acid, L-arginine, to the diet.

Awards in 2003-04

£79,982 to Dr Sanbing Shen (Biomedical Sciences, Aberdeen University) for a two-year investigation of the cellular and molecular mechanisms of neural tube defects.
By studying the activity of two enzymes found in the developing brain, this progect aims to establish if, in inappropriate quantities, they are a cause of neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
£78,002 to Dr Karen McArdle (Medicine & Therapeutics, Aberdeen University) for an 18-month study of the mechanisms and relevance of cannabidiol induction of cytochrome P450.
Cytochrome P450 is the major liver enzyme responsible for drug metabolism, however it can be inhibited or induced by other chemicals, making prescribing multiple medicines challenging. Cannabis extract is being trialled for the treatment of patients with multiple sclerosis and this research seeks to study its effects on the enzyme, to predict its effects on drug metabolism.

[Link to information about awards made between 1992 and 2003]