Peter Dearden

Associate Professor Peter Dearden leads Southern Genes. He is the director of Genetics Otago. Peter was trained at Victoria University, PhD at Imperial College, University of London. He then worked in the Wellcome (now Gurdon) institute and the Museum of Zoology, University of Cambridge; the Zoology department, University of Western Ontario; and returned to New Zealand and the University of Otago in 2002. Peter is a researcher in the Laboratory for Evolution and Development, and Otago site leader for the National Research Centre for Growth and Development. Peter's research is centered in Evolution and Development, Epigenetics and Developmental plasticity. Peter is on Twitter @peterkdearden

Is there a penis on your CV? - Genomics Aotearoa

Oct 05, 2012

By SM Morgan It’s always tricky raising a polarising issue, and occasionally especially so in an on-line forum with the potential for excessive trolling, but I (and evidently a lot of others worldwide) think it is definitely something on which needs to have an open discourse established, and I would hate for our wee country to miss out on the opportunity for growth and improvement – and informed comment. The fact is; scientists are sexist. Right, obligatory inflammatory by-line out of the way; now the research, and then the impassioned soap-boxing. This study grew from the question of whether inherent sexism in science is the reason behind the gender disparity in employment; are women not applying for, or getting, science academic jobs because the employers are specifically sexist against them, or is it their own fault for not applying due to other … Read More

My Cute Model Friend - Genomics Aotearoa

Sep 18, 2012

by SM Morgan I recently helped an office mate clean out his Tenebrio culture, which had been infected and overrun with fungus.  My scientific career to date has been primarily concerned with Mesorhizobium and Drosophila, so playing around with new ‘lab rats’ is a treat. Clean Tenebrio cultures.  Photo: SM Morgan Tenebrio molitor in its larval form is commonly called ‘mealworm’ due to it having a predilection for infesting cereal silos.  The larvae are also a favorite of pet shops, and are used to feed reptiles, fish and birds.  It is occasionally common to raise them with added juvenile hormone which keeps them in the larval form and induces much larger growth.  They are also used as fishing bait – the worm on the end of your hook.  And, apparently, when baked or fried the larvae are touted as a ‘healthy … Read More

Not Quite a Three Eyed Fish - Genomics Aotearoa

Sep 13, 2012

by SM Morgan The Tohoku Earthquake & Tsunami in March of 2011 caused an unfortunate side effect when it wasted the crap out of a couple nuclear power plants.  The nuclear material released into the surrounding environment from the Fukushima Daiichi failures caused a fair bit of panic and we are still only now working out how much of an affect the contamination will prove to have had. Iodine-131 and Caesium-137 were released into the environment at several estimates of volume, depending on the affiliations of the measurer and sensationalisation of the media.  However, it has been estimated (and published here) that the levels of contamination are about one tenth that of Chernobyl. It is difficult to directly measure the effects of such contamination when they might not be seen for years (for example, cancer incidence rates), however there are … Read More

Does eating transgenic wheat destroy your liver? - Genomics Aotearoa

Sep 12, 2012

Peter K. Dearden Today saw some discussion in the press about a statement by Canterbury University’s Prof Jack Heinemann,  Prof Judy Carmen (Flinders University) and Prof Michael Antoniou (King’s College, London), around the risks of a new transgenic wheat variety being assessed for release by CSIRO in Australia. These statements released by the Safe Food Foundation, provide an opinion on the safety of this new wheat variety, and are interesting reading. The new wheat variety aims to increase the amount of resistant starch, making this starch less easy to digest with apparent health benefits for the consumer. To make this variety, CSIRO has used a transgene that suppresses two plant genes, genes that make easy-to-digest starch. They have utilized a technique called RNA interference to do this. RNA interference is a modern technique whereby a small piece of double … Read More

Now we begin to understand how the genome works! - Genomics Aotearoa

Sep 06, 2012

Peter K. Dearden You might have seen the press coverage of the release of the ‘Encode’ data which significantly increases our understanding of the functions of the Human genome. I have spent some time trying to explain it to the public, usually through using very unhelpful metaphors. I thought, just in case people were still confused ( or more confused), that I’d write something about it. The Encode consortium takes in more than 400 geneticists from across the world who have just published 30 papers, in various leading journals, about the functional bits of the human genome. This all springs from the publication of the human genome sequence in 2002. That sequence was an enormous achievement, allowing us to see what the genome codes for. What that sequence couldn’t tell us, however, was how the genome works. The Encode consortium … Read More

Hungry Monkeys Don’t Stick Around - Genomics Aotearoa

Sep 04, 2012

by SM Morgan The media has been all of a flurry this last week over a paper by Mattison et al out of Maryland, reporting on the lifespan extension effects of caloric restriction in Rhesus monkeys – or more specifically, the lack of lifespan extension after caloric restriction in Rhesus monkeys. The paper created such a stir because in the majority of model organisms, the restriction of access to food, without inducing malnutrition, is sufficient to cause a significant lengthening of life. To further complicate matters, a similar study reported earlier in 2009, by a different research group, found the monkeys did exhibit an extension of lifespan as a result of caloric restriction. And of course, the media loves the sensationalist view of something either making humans live forever – or denying them that opportunity. Caloric restriction is … Read More

Once more with Feeling. - Genomics Aotearoa

Sep 03, 2012

Peter K. Dearden Last week Genetics Otago wrapped up the University of Otago Lecture Winter Lecture Series with a lecture from A/P John Knight who spoke on the marketing aspects of food which has been genetically modified. John’s research looks at the response of overseas markets to genetic modification in New Zealand, and his research suggests that the impact of growing GM crops on our ‘clean, green’ image, would be less than we think it would be. John can be a polarising figure, and his research has produced surprising results, but the key point here is that it IS research.  John publishes his research, it is peer reviewed, and behind it is solid data. Whilst many people may not agree with what John is saying, it is interesting to note that before his talks on Wednesday and Thursday last week, … Read More

The story your ancestors didn’t write - Genomics Aotearoa

Aug 31, 2012

by SM Morgan   I love books.  I’m just that kind of person.  I also love genetics, convenient then (or deliberate, depending your world view) that I am, or will soon be, a professional research geneticist.  Earlier this month a research group split between Baltimore and Boston published a brief paper detailing their method for storing large amounts of data in DNA form – specifically, a book encoded in DNA. The research was designed as an effort towards solving the “Big Data” problem.  BD is the term affectionately given to the problem facing a society which, when the ability has presented itself, wants to save everything.   (Those file copies of assignments you did at uni 7 years ago which you still have saved on your hard drive, for example).  For big businesses like Google, the problem is vastly exacerbated.  Having access to smaller and smaller means … Read More

Students rise to the prize! - Genomics Aotearoa

Aug 28, 2012

With the opening day’s festivities well and truly behind us, it’s time to get into some science. I began the day with student talks sponsored by the NZ Society of Endocrinolgy, and with a big prize for the best presentation. Boy, am I glad that I wasn’t a judge. All of the talks were of exceptionally high quality; better organised and more clearly communicated than many of the higher ranking scientists that will speak at this conference.   Although this was a session sponsored by the Society of Endocrinolgy, the session was dominated by research in Neuroendocrinolgy – a discipline that focuses on understanding how the brain receives hormonal signals from the body and regulates core functions such as reproduction and body weight.  Highlights included using powerful transgenic models to understand the mechanisms that underlie the curious observation that women … Read More

Let the Science Begin! - Genomics Aotearoa

Aug 27, 2012

The anticipation was palpable in the car on the way out to Queenstown this morning. Students abuzz with the excitement of their first conference, intermixed with more senior and seasoned students with their eyes on the prizes. Yes, that’s right… Prizes! The Queenstown Research Week meetings offer an array of incentives for student researchers to front-up with their latest findings, and wow their peers. This is, after all a staple of what it means to be scientist, young or old (well, older anyway) – to make discoveries and share them with the world! Upon arrival the meeting was  in many respects already in full swing. The Brain Researchers were deep in thought, the Cancer Biologists and Drug Discovery scientists engrossed in conversation. What a wonderful atmosphere – and right here in Otago! In just a few hours the Honourable Steven … Read More