Adelaide scientists named tall poppies in their field

Dr Mark Hutchinson

Dr Mark Hutchinson
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Dr Gabrielle Todd

Dr Gabrielle Todd
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Associate Professor Leonie Heilbronn

Associate Professor Leonie Heilbronn
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Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Three University of Adelaide researchers have been named Young Tall Poppies of Science for 2010-2011 for their work in fighting obesity and chronic neurological diseases.

Associate Professor Leonie Heilbronn, Dr Gabrielle Todd and Dr Mark Hutchinson from the University's Health Sciences Faculty are among eight young South Australians to be recognised today for their outstanding contributions to scientific research.

The eight were presented with their awards by His Excellency, Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce, Governor of South Australia, and the Hon. Jack Snelling, Minister for Science and Information Economy, at a breakfast ceremony as part of National Science Week.

Assoc. Prof. Heilbronn, who is also a member of the Robinson Institute, is looking at the link between obesity and metabolic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

"Considering that 60% of Australians are overweight or obese, with children now adding to those statistics, this research is critical," Assoc. Prof. Heilbronn says.

"For the first time in history, the next generation may not live as long as the preceding generation due to obesity and related chronic illnesses," she says.

Neuroscientist Dr Gabrielle Todd is investigating how the brain controls movement and the pathological changes which lead to disorders such as Parkinson's disease, an incurable neurodegenerative disease.

"The movement problems characteristic of Parkinson's disease result from the death of specific brain cells," Dr Todd says. "It is curious however that these cells can die up to 10 years before any signs of the disease. This suggests that the brain can effectively compensate for their loss in the very early stages of Parkinson's."

Dr Todd is looking at novel approaches to reduce movement dysfunction, lessening the burden of this disease on patients and their carers.

Dr Hutchinson is investigating the role of immune brain cells, known as glia, in causing chronic pain, drug addiction and epilepsy. His research has resulted in a major shift in the understanding of how these diseases are created.

"By targeting glia, rather than just the brain's wiring, we are developing more effective treatment options to control glia and prevent these chronic conditions, which affect millions of people around the world," he says.

All three scientists are NHMRC Postdoctoral Research Fellows in the School of Medicine and School of Medical Sciences, respectively.

Since 2000, more than 30 University of Adelaide researchers have been named Young Tall Poppies of Science.


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