Figuring out Risk Factors
Are you hands-on, a bit more application-orientated and love to work with smaller, furry animals? Are you a ‘’builder’’, i.e. enjoy establishing something new and working it until it is complete for the advancement of biomedical science by yourself and others? If you have answered ‘’yes’’ to these rhetorical questions then this study is the perfect match to satisfy your love for animals, the need to build systems/models and to thereby advance the understanding of risk factors linked to cardio-metabolic complications!
What is it about?
For these preclinical studies, we are focusing on specific lifestyle-related factors that impact on health, i.e. sugar-sweetened beverages and psychosocial stress, respectively. Both factors are major concerns in contemporary society, with high intake of sugar-sweetened beverages very common while South Africa is regarded as the most stressed nation in the world! Although a major concern is that both such risk factors are associated with the onset of cardio-metabolic complications, very little is known regarding the underlying mechanisms whereby it can contribute to cardio-metabolic diseases onset.
For the sugar-sweetened beverages study, the CMRG has successfully established a unique rat model of long-term intake and generated substantial data regarding its effects on liver and heart function and molecular signaling. As with any good research study, our initial investigations generated new leads (especially for the liver) where we found – for first time as far as we are aware – that altered endoplasmic reticulum stress and protein folding represent some of the earliest changes induced by sugar-sweetened beverages intake. Our laboratory is now further exploring this intriguing finding by focusing on previously collected tissue samples.
For the stress study, we are in the process of establishing a brand-new animal model that simulates psychosocial stress. This will initially take some investment in terms of time and effort expended but it will allow us to be a global leader as we begin to test our theories to show how stress actually contributes to cardio-metabolic diseases onset. This project will be launched in January 2018 and another exciting aim is to use the model to identify novel, stress-related blood biomarkers that can then be translated into the human population.
Establish rat model simulating a stressed phenotype, ex vivo heart functional analyses, in vivo heart functional analyses, vascular functional assessments, proteomics, Western blotting, ELISAs, metabolic pathway analysis, oxidative stress tests, immune system evaluation, identification of unique blood biomarkers.
Prof. Ismail Laher, University of British Columbia, Canada
Prof. Gary Sieck, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota
Prof. Jean Van Den Elsen, University of Bath, UK
Prof. Emmanuel Bourdon, University of La Reunion, France