A lifetime of science
A lifetime devoted to the study of fatty acids and lipids has been honoured with a prestigious lifetime achievement award for Professor Andrew Sinclair, Deakin’s Chair in Nutrition Science.
Professor Sinclair is located in the Metabolic Research Unit (School of Medicine). Throughout his career at Deakin he has previously been in the School of Exercise and Nutrition Science at Burwood and, in the early 1990s, in the Department of Human Nutrition at Waurn Ponds.
Professor Sinclair has been awarded the “Alexander Leaf Distinguished Scientist Award for Lifetime Achievement 2014” by the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids (ISSFAL). ISSFAL is the world’s premier lipids and fatty acids research organisation.
Professor Sinclair has become known as one of Australia’s leading nutritionists, with much of his 46-year career devoted to the study of the role of lipids and fatty acids in human health, functional foods, saturated and trans fatty acids and long chain omega 3 fatty acids.
He has played a key role in raising awareness of the importance of omega 3 fatty acids for a range of health benefits, as well as some key research findings on the essential nature of different fatty acids, including the first report of essential fatty acid deficiency in an adult human; the first report of linolenic acid deficiency in a primate; the discovery that domestic cats have abberant fatty acid metabolism; and discovering, with Michael Crawford, the unique polyunsaturated fatty acid fingerprint of the mammalian brain.
Professor Sinclair’s current research program has been studying the role of a docosapentaenoic acid (omega 3) in vitro, in rodents and in humans. This fatty acid is present in fish, lean red meat and the human brain, but its role in biology and health has been neglected until now.
Professor Sinclair has also made a significant contribution to the Deakin research community, establishing links with researchers from all campuses in the area of omega 3 research, along with colleagues Assoc Prof Giovanni Turchini, Professor Leigh Ackland and Professor Colin Barrow.
In addition, Professor Sinclair, along with Dr Laura Gray, has established the Deakin Neural Network – a network for brain researchers across all Deakin campuses.
Both these research networks are involved in mentoring younger researchers and trying to establish collaborations across the university.
As an aside, Professor Sinclair may be the only Deakin researcher to have co-authored a research paper with the current Victorian Premier, Dr Denis Napthine, on the esoteric subject of “Globoid cell leukodystrophy in Polled Dorset sheep”!
The award will be presented at ISSFAL’s Biennial Congress, to be held in Stockholm in June this year. The first award was presented in 2002, to honour the work of ground-breaking nutritionist Dr Alexander Leaf, and to recognise and reward international research excellence in this field.
Deakin’s leadership in metabolic research has been further acknowledged with two other Deakin researchers from the Metabolic Research Unit also receiving awards from ISSFAL.
PhD researcher, Ms Samaneh Ghasemifard has received an “ISSFAL International Exchange Award”, which will cover her expenses for a research exchange project of several months, most likely in Finland in 2015. The award will also be presented at the ISSFAL Congress, in June.
Professor Sinclair said that “Samaneh is a diligent young lipid scientist.” Her work involves focusing on the bioavailability of different forms of long chain fatty acids from ‘traditional’ fish oil and krill oil, using a combination of in vivo, in vitro systems and a human trial. In the past five years, she has published six peer-reviewed articles in journals such as “Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids,” “Nutrition and Cancer,” and “Food Chemistry.”
Dr Yann Gibert has received an ISSFAL “New Investigator” award. This will cover his ISSFAL Congress registration and provide an opportunity to give an oral presentation at the Congress. Dr Gibert is a zebra fish expert and, with his group, has recently completed the first lipidomic analysis during vertebrate embryogenesis using the zebrafish as the model.
Deakin’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander congratulated the three researchers and thanked them for “the thinking, the very hard work and for being active in their professional group.”
“The acknowledgements and recognition the researchers have each received from ISSFAL is outstanding,” Professor den Hollander said.
The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Lee Astheimer added that “Deakin is very proud of the researchers and the research the awards have recognised.”
Professor Sinclair’s group within the Metabolic Research Unit focusses on the bioavailability of omega 3 fatty acids from different food sources in humans and animals. Omega 3s are contained within polyunsaturated fat, particularly in oily fish, and play a major role in the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease, reducing inflammation resulting from rheumatoid arthritis, as well as helping to maintain eyesight, weight, cognition and mental health.
Professor Sinclair is the immediate past Chairperson of the Nutrition Committee of the Australian Academy of Science and has long been very active in the Nutrition Society of Australia, with whom he is a Fellow. Within this Society, he has held the honorary positions of chair of the Melbourne group, Editor, Secretary and President.
He is also an Associate Editor of the “British Journal of Nutrition”, and on the editorial boards of Elsevier journal, “Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids” and the “Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition.”