WAIMR Researcher Wins Opportunity to Study in U.S.
August 7th, 2012
Dense and disorganised blood vessels in the retina, 21 days after the onset of diabetes.
A PhD student from the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research has been given a valuable opportunity to travel to Memphis, Tennessee in the United States this September so she can discover more about a debilitating complication of diabetes.
Lakshini Weerasekera has been awarded the JDRF/Macquarie Group Foundation Early Stage Research Travel Grant to advance her research into Diabetic Retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy is a serious complication of diabetes that causes damage to the blood vessels inside the retina, leading to vision loss and eventually blindness.
The problem can affect around a third of people who have had diabetes for 10 years or more, with their risk increasing the longer they have had diabetes.
Lakshini's work has involved studying Diabetic Retinopathy in the novel mouse resource "The Gene Mine", which was established in Perth by WAIMR Professor Grant Morahan.
"I'm very fortunate to be working with Professor Grant Morahan and Dr Lois Balmer studying the powerful resource of the Gene Mine," Lakshini said.
"Since October 2010, we have been carrying out experiments at the Centre for Diabetes Research to develop a model for Diabetic Retinopathy.
"This work will allow us to define the molecular basis of Diabetic Retinopathy, eventually leading to better disease treatment," she said.
"Visiting collaborators at the University of Tennessee will give me the opportunity to complement my work with The Gene Mine and to gain experience in research work in the USA.
"This project will involve analysis of changes in retinal gene expression in response to diabetes. It will give me the opportunity to meet and work with one of the world's experts in genetics of the mouse visual system, Professor Rob Williams. His guidance and advice will aid me to better understand the diabetic eye and the genetic control over diabetic retinopathy,"she said.
Lakshini said studying alongside her US colleagues will be an important learning experience.
"The skills, techniques and knowledge received during this visit will help me complete the PhD, with a valuable contribution towards understanding one of the major diabetes complications," she said.
Lakshini will return to Perth after two months overseas to continue gene expression studies on diabetic retina in The Gene Mine mice.
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