Students rise to the prize!

By Peter Dearden 28/08/2012

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 with obesity often suffer additionally with infertility. Excitingly, student research has revealed for the first time that there are unanticipated interactions between hormones, such as estrogen, that regulate reproduction and hormones, such as insulin, that regulate body weight.   Additionally, there was a lovely presentation that investigated the how a mother’s obesity during pregnancy can increase the risk that her offspring will suffer similarly with obesity and the “metabolic syndrome.” Strikingly, the student’s research showed that a mother’s obesity can alter how her foetus’s brain forms, such that the ability of the brain to control eating behaviour is derelict, and the risk of obesity is thereby elevated.  Lest you conclude that my commentary is perhaps a touch over-the-top, riddled with hyperbole – as I am, after all, a Neuroendocrinologist – one audience member remarked, “Beautiful – Heroic studies”.  Well done young scientists! The winner will be announced at tonight’s conference dinner – stay tuned!