Dundee Science Festival 2017 – Our BHF funded students talk about heart and circulatory disease

Our British Heart Foundation funded students Gavin Robertson, Amy Dorward (Pitt lab) and Amelie Sobczak (Stewart lab) took part in the 2017 Dundee Science festival hosted by the BHF. They volunteered at the BHFs family-orientated interactive pop-up lab “what’s it like to be a heart scientist?” Here they educated visitors on how the heart works, what can go wrong in heart disease, and the importance of looking after your heart. The event was a fun and interactive way to engage children into the world of medical research, as well as conveying information to adults about the vital work and research that the BHF carries out locally. They found the event to be very enjoyable and hope that it will inspire future heart research scientists.

Skeletal mineralisation “Hypotheses” article – accepted by FASEB J

Matrix mineralization is the process by which the skeleton forms and is maintained. Matrix vesicles (MVs) released from osteoblasts and chondrocytes serve to accumulate calcium and inorganic phosphate such that mineralization can take place. In a paper to be published in the FASEB Journal, the Stewart group (in collaboration with Prof Colin Farquharson, University of Edinburgh) propose the potential involvement of two enzymes, phospholipase A2 (PLA2) and ectonucleotide pyrophophatase/phosphodiesterase 6 (ENPP6), which may act together to generate inorganic phosphate from phosphatidylcholine in the MV membrane. Together they could produce phosphocholine, which in turn is a substrate for PHOSPHO1, an enzyme known to be essential for mineralization. The presented concept is backed up by various pieces of evidence; for example, both enzymes are expressed in mineralizing cells and it is known that phosphatidylcholine is broken down in MVs during mineralization. The paper, which will feature in a forthcoming issue, stemmed from a BSc(Hons) project that was researched by final year student, Darren Leong earlier this year.

China Visit

Alan Stewart was recently in Xining, Qinghai Province, China, where he delivered seminars in two Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Institutes. These included the North West Institute of Plateau Biology, where he was bestowed the honorary position of Guest Professor. This is in part due to a new collaborative award of ¥400,000 from CAS to Dr Ruitao Yu, an Associate Professor at the Institute and former Visiting Scholar in the Stewart Group. During this new project, Dr Yu will spend another 3 months in Dr Stewart’s lab to examine the serum albumin binding characteristics of medicinally relevant natural products. Also whilst in Xining, Dr Stewart delivered a Keynote Lecture at a High-End Forum focussed on medicinally-relevant natural products and their usefulness for treatment of cardiovascular disease. Dr Stewart’s trip to China was funded by the Administration of Foreign Experts of Qinghai Province.