Prof Leigh Ackland

STAFF PROFILE

Position

Personal Chair

Faculty

Faculty of Sci Eng & Built Env

Department

School of Life & Env. Sciences

Campus

Melbourne Burwood Campus

Qualifications

Bachelor of Science, University of Melbourne, 1973
Master of Science, University of Melbourne, 1976
Doctor of Philosophy, University of Melbourne, 1993

Contact

leigh.ackland@deakin.edu.au
+61 3 925 17036

Career highlights

In 2014 I was one of 26 international leading scientists invited to participate in the Ernst Strungman forum on Heavy Metals and Infectious Diseases, to address key gaps in knowledge in global issues, held in Frankfurt, Germany.

Research interests

Molecular biology of trace elements in human diseases
My team and I have applied molecular genetic techniques, protein chemistry and confocal microscopy to understand how zinc and copper get into and out of cells. We developed expertise in the manipulation of human cells in culture to mimic human tissues including the mammary gland, skin, gut and placenta. We have studied inherited disorders in humans that result in the production of trace element-deficient milk during lactation.

Epigenetic Factors in Gestational Diabetes

Mechanisms underlying the spread of breast cancer cells
Using a novel human breast cancer line we study the mechanisms of breast cancer metastasis termed “epithelial to mesenchymal transition”.

Role of omega-3 fatty acids in brain disorders
In cultured human neuronal cells we recently found that the omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, prevents cells from dying through a zinc signalling mechanism. This has implications for use of DHA in preventing or treating degenerative brain disorders.

Nanolipids and brain cell survival
We are investigating the use of nanotechnology for delivering omega-3 fatty acids to the brain.

Development of remediation strategies for heavy metal-contaminated soils and water
Field trials of selected plants to remediate cadmium-contaminated soils are underway and the cellular mechanisms that enable plants to accumulate or resist heavy metals are being investigated.

Teaching interests

Introducing an understanding of the experimental basis of science and how research has shaped our understanding of biology

Expertise

Biology of metals and metal transporters in prokaryote and eukaryote cells. Epithelial to mesenchymal transition in cancer progression.

Projects

Molecular biology of zinc and copper in human diseases
My team and I have applied molecular genetic techniques, protein chemistry and confocal microscopy to understand zinc and copper fluxes in cells. We developed expertise in the manipulation of human cells in culture to mimic human tissues including the mammary gland, skin, gut and placenta. We have studied inherited disorders in humans that result in the production of trace element-deficient milk during lactation.

Mechanisms underlying the spread of breast cancer cells
Using a novel human breast cancer line we study the mechanisms of breast cancer metastasis termed “epithelial to mesenchymal transition”.

Role of omega-3 fatty acids in brain disorders
In cultured human neuronal cells we recently found that the omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, prevents cells from dying through a zinc signalling mechanism. This has implications for use of DHA in preventing or treating degenerative brain disorders.

Nanolipids and brain cell survival
We are investigating the use of nanotechnology for delivering omega-3 fatty acids to the brain.

Development of remediation strategies for heavy metal-contaminated soils and water
Field trials of selected plants to remediate cadmium-contaminated soils are underway and the cellular mechanisms that enable plants to accumulate or resist heavy metals are being investigated.

Epigenetic Factors in diabetesWith a team of clinicians, we are investigating changers in histone methylation that occur in diabetes during pregnancy.