ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 9/9/2018
Dr Kim Mellor is an expert in matters of the heart, literally. Her passion for her research is evident in the way she lecturers and leads her lab which you will know if you have had the pleasure of taking Medsci 205, 309, or 311! This interview covers the ins and outs of Dr Mellor's pathway so read on to be inspired.
What is your current position/role? Senior Lecturer in the Department of Physiology, University of Auckland, New Zealand. I lead the Cellular & Molecular Cardiology group focused on understanding the mechanisms of cardiac dysfunction in settings of diabetes and heart failure.
What is your research background? How did you begin your career in Physiology? After completing my undergraduate Bachelor of Biomedical Science in Physiology at the University of Otago, NZ, I moved to the University of Melbourne to undertake a BSc(Hons) research year with Prof Lea Delbridge in Physiology. It was in Melbourne where I caught the ‘research bug’ and continued into a PhD in the same laboratory.
What research are you currently involved with? Since establishing my lab in the Department of Physiology at the University of Auckland in 2013, our research has primarily focused on investigating the mechanisms of heart failure in the hope of identifying new targets of therapeutic value. We have a particular interest in diabetes-associated heart failure – a condition with no specific treatment strategy. Heart abnormalities in diabetic patients are distinctive from those observed in non-diabetes. We have made some new discoveries relating to the process of glucose management in diabetic heart muscle cells and have studies underway addressing new questions about glucose storage and availability in the diabetic heart. Diabetes prevalence has been linked with excess dietary intake of fructose, and our studies suggest that fructose sugar may be a key instigator of heart damage in diabetes. Very little is known about fructose metabolism in heart muscle cells and our studies are examining the intracellular fructose damage pathways and testing novel intervention strategies. Our pre-clinical investigations include assessment of heart function at the ‘whole organ’ and ‘single cell’ level. We link functional outcomes to molecular signalling measurements and use gene manipulation techniques to interrogate the proposed mechanisms.
What is the research direction you would like to take in the next 3-5 years? I would like to advance our work using cardiac-specific gene manipulation to identify the mechanisms of heart dysfunction. We have great opportunity to interrogate the role of specific molecular pathways in the heart to reveal novel targets for intervention. Our Australia-NZ collaborations are very robust and productive, I would like to see these connections continue and develop over the coming years.
What's the best thing about your lab at the moment? We have a fantastic group of people in the lab who are engaged with the science and enjoyable to work with. There are always interesting science discussions to be had and new findings to interpret. I feel very privileged to lead this group of committed researchers - to have the opportunity to learn from them, and enable others to learn and grow as scientists.
Which part of research makes it most enjoyable for you? I love working and interacting with people on a daily basis who are passionate about what they are doing. We have some excellent collaborations and I enjoy working closely with other lab groups. A research career is a lifetime of learning and moving forward with new technologies - it is exciting to think about the possibilities of the future!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
With the recent arrival of my baby girl, Emma, spare time is rather limited! But when it is possible to get away for a long weekend, I enjoy going camping and hiking, and visiting family.
Dr Mellor has been a fantastic contributor and we are thankful for her time! The Cellular and Molecular Cardiology lab has many exciting opportunities for research students so take a look or email Dr Mellor directly!