Understanding Equine Cushing’s Disease to improve horse and human health

Project Code: 10464409

Faculty: Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

Department: Physiology

Main Supervisor: Dr Kathy Mountjoy

Application open date: 22 Jun 2020

Application deadline: 30 Sep 2021

Enrolment information: NZ Citizens, NZ Permanent Residents


Equine Cushing’s Disease, also known as pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction, is a common endocrine disease in horses. The underlying cause involves damage to the brain pathway that regulates melanocortin hormones produced from pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) in the pituitary pars intermedia. POMC is cleaved into several peptides in the pituitary pars intermedia and it is unknown how each one of these is affected in Equine Cushing’s Disease.


What we are looking for in a successful applicant

Seeking a student with a passion for medical research. There are opportunities to continue this research project at the PhD level.


This project will apply state-of-the-art MALDI imaging mass spectrometry technology to identify  and map POMC cleavage products through horse pituitary. MALDI imaging mass spectrometry is a proteomic technique that combines the specificity and sensitivity of mass spectrometry with spatial information to map tissue-wide distribution of multiple analytes simultaneously, directly from a single tissue section.


Understanding Equine Cushing’s Disease will advance understanding melanocortin hormone physiology and ultimately lead to improvements for horse and human health.





Other information

Skills taught:

·      Cryostat cutting thin pituitary sections from frozen tissue

 ·     Histology: haematoxylin and eosin staining


·      Light microscopy and documentation of capture images


·      MALDI imaging mass spectrometry


·      Proteomic data searching



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