Have knowledge, will travel
Two leading University of Adelaide post-doctoral researchers will visit the UK later this year to get a better insight into age-related diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and cataracts.
Dr Sarah Meehan and Dr Heath Ecroyd from the School of Chemistry and Physics are recipients of the Qantas Research Travel Support Scholarship, a collaborative scheme being pioneered by the University and Qantas to support international researchers.
The pair will conduct X-ray solution scattering experiments at the synchrotron radiation facility at the Daresbury Laboratory in England to determine how the body's natural defence mechanisms can help fight debilitating age-related diseases.
"As people age, proteins in their body become unstable and clump together to form abnormal deposits. This can be potentially lethal and is linked to Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases," Dr Meehan says.
"As a defence strategy, cells produce chaperone proteins which prevent them from forming abnormal or `amyloid' deposits.
"Our objective is to investigate how this protective chaperone machinery operates and determine how it can revitalise cells. If we can understand this natural defence mechanism better, it will aid in the development of treatments and cures for these age-related diseases."
Dr Ecroyd says the aim of the research is to delay the onset of age-related diseases in the future.
"This is a really exciting area of research. There is rapid progress being made in this field and it will have huge implications for the UK and Australia because of the ageing population."
Dr Meehan completed her degree in Chemistry (MChem) at the University of Oxford in 2000 and transferred to Cambridge University to begin her PhD. She was part of an internationally renowned and world-leading group focused on research into protein abnormalities and disease.
At the closing stages of her PhD, Dr Meehan was awarded a prestigious 18-month International Fellowship from the Royal Society to undertake research at the University of Adelaide with Professor John Carver.
Dr Ecroyd completed his PhD at Newcastle University and then spent two years in France, undertaking a post doctorate at INRA, the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, where he worked on the protein responsible for Mad Cow Disease.
Dr Ecroyd joined Professor Carver's research as a National Health and Medical Research Council Peter Doherty Fellow in 2005. ■
Story Candy Gibson