MRC PPU News
Kei Sakamoto to receive New Investigator Award from the American Physiological Society
11 April, 2007

As an aerobics instructor and a finalist in Japan’s National Aerobic Dance Competition, Kei Sakamoto knew that exercise brought health benefits. What he wanted to find out next was exactly how that exercise worked in bringing beneficial effects to people with diseases like Type 2 diabetes.

His work in exercise physiology eventually led him to the University of Dundee and has now gained him recognition from the American Physiological Society as one of the emerging stars in the field.

Kei, a Programme Leader in the MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit in the College of Life Sciences at the University of Dundee, has been selected to receive the New Investigator Award for 2007 from the Endocrinology and Metabolism Section of the American Physiological Society.

The prize of US$1000 plus free registration at the Society’s Annual Meeting “recognizes an outstanding investigator in the early stages of his/her career.” Kei will receive the award and certificate of recognition on Monday April 30th 2007 in Washington DC.

Kei’s interest in exercise physiology was kindled as an undergraduate, when he was a finalist in the National Aerobic Dance Competition in Japan. Later he obtained a Master’s degree specialising in exercise physiology, which stimulated him to understand the molecular signaling mechanisms by which exercise mediates its beneficial effects on type 2 diabetics.

“My interest in this field really was stimulated by exercise and aerobics,” said Kei. “I was an aerobics teacher and hosting a fitness program on TV in Japan, so I knew the benefits it brought, and of course you are always hearing from doctors that exercise prevents you from obesity and keep yourself fit and energetic.

“What I wanted to find out was how exercise `signals’ muscle to consume excess energy by taking up glucose from the blood, and to burn fat, at the molecular level.”

Kei completed his Ph.D. work with Laurie Goodyear at the Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School, where he learned molecular physiology of exercise and its impact on muscle and whole body metabolism. Kei then moved to Dundee to join Professor Dario Alessi’s laboratory in the MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit as a postdoctoral researcher in 2003 to gain expertise in biochemistry and signal transduction and its relevance to human disease.

Working with Dario, Kei has provided evidence that a molecular signaling pathway known as LKB1-AMPK plays a key role in controlling energy balance and glucose uptake in muscle during exercise. He has been instrumental in setting up the Unit’s Laboratory of Molecular Physiology and was recently promoted to Programme Leader by the Medical Research Council.

Commenting on the award, Kei said, “It is a great honour to receive such a prestigious award from the American Physiological Society. We are making every effort to set up a state-of-the-art molecular physiology laboratory within the Unit and it is our aim to attract more young and talented physiologists to Dundee.”




 

Angela Nicoll and Ron Lorimer leave the College of Life Sciences
4 April, 2007

On Friday March 30th a reception was held in the College of Life Sciences’ Garland Cafeteria to mark the departure of two of its longest serving and most loyal support staff. The huge turnout at the reception was a testament to the popularity of these staff members and the immense contribution that they made to Life Sciences over many years.

Angie Nicoll was the Head Secretary in the Department of Biological Sciences for 16 years before becoming the Publicity and Liaison Officer for the College of Life Sciences when it was formed in 2000. In this role Angie was responsible for maintaining and developing the College of Life Sciences website which received well over one million hits in 2006. She also handled all the press releases, organised the annual Life Sciences retreat (in which nearly 300 participate), as well as taking charge of the named lectures, and the organisation of visits from VIPs. Angie will be sorely missed but we wish her well in the new challenge she has decided to take up in the University as the PA to Andreas Meltzer, Director of the Institute of Medical Science and Technology, recently set up in the School of Engineering.

Ron Lorimer joined the Stores team in 1993, and over the past 14 years has delivered chemicals, equipment and other supplies to all the 70 research groups in the College of Life Sciences in an efficient manner. Ron’s cheerfulness has enlivened the atmosphere of Life Sciences as has his singing. In recent years he formed “Ron and the Researchers”, a musical group which includes four other members of Life Sciences (Magnus Alphey, David Martin, Alexander Schuettelkopf and Jeff Williams). We have all enjoyed their performances at the College of Life Sciences annual retreat over the past two years, held at the Crieff Hydro Hotel.

Ron has also been an enthusiastic participant at the College of Life Sciences annual golf tournament held at Braemar each August. At the farewell reception Ron was awarded ‘Emeritus ‘ status so that he could continue to compete at Braemar. We wish him well in his retirement.




 

Kei Sakamoto receives New Investigator Award
4 April, 2007

Kei Sakamoto, a Programme Leader in the MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit at Dundee has been selected to receive the New Investigator Award for 2007 from the Endocrinology and Metabolism Section of the American Physiological Society. The prize of US$1000 plus free registration at the Society’s Annual Meeting “recognizes an outstanding investigator in the early stages of his/her career.” Kei will receive the award and certificate of recognition on Monday April 30th 2007 in Washington DC.

Kei’s interest in exercise physiology was kindled as an undergraduate, when he was a finalist in the National Aerobic Dance Competition in Japan. Later he obtained a Master’s degree specialising in exercise physiology, which stimulated him to understand the molecular signaling mechanisms by which exercise mediates its beneficial effects on type 2 diabetics. After completing a Ph.D. with Laurie Goodyear at the Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School, Kei joined Dario Alessi’s laboratory in the MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit at Dundee as a postdoctoral researcher in 2003. Working with Dario, Kei generated muscle-specific LKB1 knock-out mice and provided evidence that the LKB1-AMPK pathway plays a key role in controlling energy balance and glucose uptake in muscle during exercise. He has been instrumental in setting up the Unit’s Laboratory of Molecular Physiology and was recently promoted to Programme Leader by the Medical Research Council.

Commenting on the award, Kei said:-
“It is a great honour to receive such a prestigious award from the American Physiological Society. I will make every effort to set up a “state-of-art” molecular physiology laboratory within the Unit and aim to attract young talented physiologists to Dundee.”




 

Jack McConnell, Scotland's First Minister, pledges to set up a Scottish National Institute for Life Sciences at Dundee.
2 April, 2007

On Friday March 30th Jack McConnell chose the College of Life Sciences at Dundee as the venue to spell out the Labour party’s manifesto for science over the next five years, should they form the government after the Scottish Elections on May 3rd. A key announcement in his speech was a pledge to set up a National Institute for Life Sciences in Scotland and a further pledge that it would be set up in Dundee.

Jack McConnell said that he “had been convinced of the need for the Centre by Philip Cohen (Dean of Life Sciences Research in the College of Life Sciences at Dundee and Director of the MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit). The First Minster also said “it is wrong that there are three Institutes for Life Sciences in the South of England (the MRC Laboratory for Molecular Biology at Cambridge, the National Institute for Medical Research, and the Clinical Sciences Centre in London) but none in Scotland. I believe it is important we commit to that for the next term of the parliament and the right choice for the creation of the Centre is Dundee”. He added that “it would be properly funded on a National basis”.

Prior to the First Minister’s announcement Philip Cohen had outlined the vision for the Scottish Institute for Life Sciences (SCILS) and the reasons why it should be set up at Dundee. He said that he “personally believed that it would attract a more world-class, entrepreneurial scientists to Scotland” and that “SCILS would benefit from synergy with the exceptional Biomedical Science environment at the University of Dundee and so bring Life Sciences to a new level”.

Summing up, Peter Downes the Head of the College of Life Sciences at Dundee, thanked the First Minister for visiting the College of Life Sciences to make this exciting announcement. He said that he hoped that every political party would be equally enthusiastic about the concept of SCILS.

The First Minister’s announcement is the culmination of many discussions about SCILS that Philip Cohen, Peter Downes and Michael Ferguson have had with senior politicians from all the major political parties over the past three years and with the Scottish Scientific Advisory Committee, whose former Chairman Wilson Sibbett became a strong advocate of the initiative.

The outcome of the May elections is awaited with great interest!




 

MRC researcher awarded Biochemical Society'€™s Colworth Medal
6 March, 2007

The prestigious 2008 Colworth Medal has been awarded to Dr John Rouse, a principal investigator in the MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit at the University of Dundee. The medal is sponsored by Unilever and presented by the Biochemical Society. It is said to be the most distinguished award that a biochemist under 36 years old can receive in the UK.

Dr Rouse will receive an honorarium of £2,000 and an invitation to present two lectures, one at a Biochemical Society meeting and another at the Unilever research laboratory.

Dr Rouse’s research focuses on how cells recognise and repair DNA damage to prevent mutations developing. DNA damage can cause a gradual accumulation of mutations in cells. These undesirable changes underlie a wide range of human disease including cancer.

Ordinarily, mutations occur at low levels because healthy cells have the ability to detect and eliminate DNA damage. However, DNA is constantly under attack by agents found both inside and outside the cell that can create DNA damage. Understanding how these agents cause mutations to develop, and how the cell fights this, will give fresh insight into how diseases like cancer can develop.

Dr Rouse established his own research group within the Medical Research Council Protein Phosphorylation Unit in 2002. Previously, Dr Rouse obtained his PhD under the supervision of Sir Philip Cohen in the MRC-PPU at Dundee in 1996 then held a postdoctoral position at the University of Cambridge until 2002 before returning to Dundee as a Principal Investigator.

The award of the Colworth Medal is a further enhancement to Dr Rouse’s scientific standing. In 2006 he received a European Molecular Biology Organisation Young Investigator Award.

Commenting on the award Dr Rouse said: “It is a great honour to receive the Biochemical Society Colworth Medal, especially given the long list of distinguished past recipients, seven of whom are also based in Dundee, two of them in the MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit. This is a testament to the quality of biochemical research going on here.”