Entry for:Vice Chancellors Research Pitch Challenge
My name is Samantha I am a postdoc at the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney. My research focuses on understanding how nutrition influences health and ageing. Using a novel nutritional modelling platform called the Geometric Framework, my research has been able to highlight the importance of the balance of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate and fat) in reproduction, hormonal control, immunity, metabolism and ageing, emphasizing the need to view the complex nutritional questions in an integrated way.
In my PhD, my work showed that the ratio of macronutrients, not total calories, was responsible for increased healthspan and lifespan in mice. Diets low in protein and high in carbohydrate optimised latelife health and longevity. We identified branched chain amino acids (BCAA), key components of proteins, as the major regulator of these responses, suggesting a novel and crucial role for BCAA in mediating health and lifespan. This work has overturned a central dogma in the field of ageing, highlighting the importance of diet balance in promoting healthy ageing.
My current work as an NHMRC Early Career Fellow builds on from these findings, focusing particularly on the roles of BCAA in mediating metabolic health and ageing. While studies are still on going, preliminary data is supporting our previous results that increased BCAA intake plays a key role in driving the metabolic impairments observed in mice.
Not only do these findings challenge our common conceptions about diet, but they also have important implications for diet management in latelife health and longevity. If we can use diet to extend health lifespan and delay age-related disease, the potential effects of population-level health, are extraordinary.
2. Additional Details
My work has been featured in several national and international news outlets including (but not limited to) Science, Nature Medicine, Faculty of 1000, ABC Health Report with Norman Swan, SBS and Women’s Health (UK).
In addition to my research, I have also participated in several University of Sydney events, speaking as the Early Career Representative Speaker at various high-profile events such as University Senate Retreat, Kirribilli, Sydney (2015), CPC bequest event on ‘Nutrition and Healthy Ageing’ (2015), Inaugural Golden Graduates luncheon (2015), Dinner with his His Excellency General, The Honourable David Hurley, Governor of New South Wales (2015) and the Vice-Chancellor’s board meeting (2015). In 2014, I was also a founding member of the Charles Perkins Centre’s Early to Mid-Career Researcher initiative, which now has over 300 active members.
This year, I have taken on an additional role as a conference organiser for the 2nd Australian Biology of Ageing Conference (Apr 2017). I have also been invited to speak at the World Obesity Stock Conference (Mar 2017, Australia), the Keystone Symposia conference on Aging (July 2018, Germany) and participate at the National Institute of Aging’s workshop on the needs and opportunities for research relating to human nutritional interventions (Sep 2017, USA).
After the birth of my daughter, I took six months of maternity leave from Nov 2015 – Jun 2016.