One-carbon metabolism (the homocysteine pathway and folate cycle) and metabolic health in children and adults.

Project Code: 10381691

Faculty: Liggins Institute

Department: Liggins Institute

Main Supervisor: Professor Martin Kussmann (mkus786)

Principal investigator: Professor Melissa Wake (mwak005)

Application open date: 06 Jun 2017

Application deadline: 28 Feb 2018

Enrolment information: NZ Citizens, NZ Permanent Residents, International


Nutrition is key to improving and preventing metabolic conditions such as diabetes and obesity. To date, technology and study designs have limited research to studying nutritional factors in isolation – a reductionist approach that does not reflect how physiology actually works. In fact, nutrient requirements and health outcomes are determined by the (individually subtle, yet concertedly strong) effects of multiple factors interacting across the life course to jointly exert an important health impact.

This PhD sits within a new partnership between the Liggins Institute (University of Auckland) and Australia’s Murdoch Children’s Research Institute partnership, aiming to advance the field to a new level of knowledge and capability regarding molecular nutrition and physiology. We will develop and apply both bio- and data-analytics, incorporating advanced biomathematics and computation to understand how molecular nutrition influences health.

What we are looking for in a successful applicant

This project is available to students able to attract funding stipends, e.g. via university or international scholarships.

This project will suit a person with qualifications in analytical biochemistry and/or molecular biology and could lead on to a career in human health science, at the emerging interface of clinical research, nutrition and systems biology.

**Please include undergraduate and any postgraduate transcripts with your application.**


Aim: Analytical development and clinical application of a multiplexed panel for one-carbon metabolism substrates, enzymes and metabolites.

Description: One-carbon metabolism is a key regulator in metabolic processes, but only now does technology support its study at the population level. Today, there is no single analytical method available to monitor both metabolites and co-factors of the methionine/homocysteine cycle and folate pathway. To address this limitation, the PhD student shall develop and implement a platform for simultaneous quantification of metabolites of these two key pathways. Such multi-analyte method can be based on ultra-performance liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC–MS/MS), as available at the Liggins. This will provide a novel metabonomic approach for large-scale observational and intervention studies. We expect such a robust method to be relevant for deep molecular phenotyping of individuals in relation to their nutritional requirements, health monitoring, and disease management. PhD supervisor and systems biologist Kussmannn has developed such platforms in his previous research laboratories (Guiraud et al. Anal. Bioanal. Chem. 2016; DaSilva et al. Bioanalysis 2016).

Other information

This project uses data collected for the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (Growing Up in Australia) and its Child Health CheckPoint.