Dr Stephen Myers
Federation University Australia
Stephen Myers' research with the CRN into the global epidemic of Type II diabetes has the potential to have long-term benefits, not just for the health of regional communities, but also for people around the world.
Dr Myers is looking at the role of zinc in insulin signalling. While the way that insulin stimulates the body to utilise glucose has been extensively studied, preliminary data from the laboratory of fellow Federation University Australia researcher Dr Mark Myers has identified a novel role for zinc ions that may be important in enhancing insulin activity. This previously unexplored concept would raise a whole new area of research into the pathophysiology of insulin resistance and introduce a new class of drug target with utility for diabetes pharmacotherapy.
"We do have a lot of information already on cellular messengers like calcium. Zinc is a newcomer and the fact that it is regulated through insulin signalling puts us into a good position to study it in relation to diabetes.
"I think zinc could provide novel utility for therapeutic interventions for Type II diabetes.
The rise in incidences of diabetes across the globe, attributed to unhealthy lifestyle changes and rising obesity, makes this research particularly important.
Diabetes and its associated treatment costs is already beginning to place enormous pressures on the health budgets of governments around the world. Dr Myers is aware that the problem will need to be approached on many fronts – socio-economic as well the scientific. He believes the inter-disciplinary approach to research underpinning the CRN will enable this to happen.
"Being able to take an inter-disciplinary approach to this is extremely important," he said. "The other thing that is important is being able to collaborate with a number of sister universities.
"Often, when you are working away on your research, you are mostly focused on what's going on within the institution in which you are working at the time, often unaware of other possibilities. Through the CRN, something which hasn't been done before in Australia, I am very close to a hub of universities in Victoria, all of which are highly prestigious institutions."
Dr Myers completed his PhD in 2004 in the field of molecular genetics from Queensland University of Technology (QUT). While at QUT he received a Dora Lush National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) scholarship to undertake research into the "hormonal regulation of a family of serine proteases in hormone-dependent cancers of the breast and prostate".
That work led to him being offered a University of Queensland Fellowship, where he worked in the Institute for Molecular Biosciences. There, his research focused on metabolic disease processes, particularly those associated with lipid and carbohydrate metabolism and energy expenditure.
Within the CRN he is also assisting with the supervision of research students working on two projects titled: "Population health and chronic disease: Epigenetic causes of cardiac hypertrophy and failure" and "Peptide hormones and digestive enzymes in the platypus: evolutionary adaptations to a loss of gastric function".
Dr Myers' research helps the CRN fulfil its commitment to investigating the causes and consequences of social and educational disconnectedness and poor health in regional communities.