Staff profile - Leigh Ackland

Staff image

Prof Leigh Ackland

Position: Personal Chair
role description
Faculty or Division: Faculty of Science Engineering & Built Environment
Department: School of Life and Environmental Sciences
Campus: L3.04, Melbourne Burwood Campus
Phone: +61 3 92517036 +61 3 92517036
Email: leigh.ackland@deakin.edu.au

Biography

Qualifications

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


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.


Academic

Teaching Interests

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


Expertise summary

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

Student supervision

Τrace metals in human health and disease.
My students use molecular genetic techniques, protein chemistry and confocal microscopy to identify molecular transporters that control the fluxes of zinc and copper into and out of cells. We use cultured human cells to mimic human tissues, including the mammary gland, skin, gut and placenta. This research enables us to understand the biology of metals in normal situations and also what happens in defective copper and zinc transport seen in genetic disorders of trace metal metabolism of humans and in Alzheimers disease.

Contribution to advances in breast cancer
A novel human breast cell culture model PMC42-LA was generated in my lab through application of advanced cell culture technologies. This has been locally and internationally utilised to investigate the mechanisms underlying the spread of breast cancer cells.  Work using this model has contributed to understanding the process of breast cancer metastasis termed “epithelial to mesenchymal transition”.

Issues of environmental metal contamination and effects of pollutants on human health
We are investigating accumulation of zinc, cadmium and other heavy metals in plants and bacteria from metal-contaminated soil and water. This work has lead to the establishment of international programs to develop bioremediation strategies based on the capacity of plants and bacteria to accumulate heavy metals. Field trials are currently being carried out in China to fully develop technologies for remediation of cadmium- contaminated soils. Pollutants such as PAHs have adverse health effects and we are using cell culture models to understand how pollutants such as ones found in soils and water might contribute to cancer.

Epigenetic factors in gestational diabetes


Research

Research 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.


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.


Research grants

http://www.deakin.edu.au/research/admin/pubs/reports/database/dynamic/output/person/person.php?person_code=acklalx


Research page

https://www.deakin.edu.au/apps/research/find-a-researcher/18423/Prof-Leigh-Ackland


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