Tracy Josephs prepares to graduate from the University of
Otago today. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Tracy Josephs, a biochemistry researcher at the
University of Otago, has sparked international scientific
interest with a study which could also help shed new light on
problems involving cell death in cancer and Alzheimer's
Ms Josephs will graduate today from the university with a PhD
She is among about 340 people who will graduate in person
from Otago, with a wide range of qualifications including
science, consumer and applied sciences, and physical
education, in a ceremony at the Regent Theatre at 4pm today.
Ms Josephs is ''a bit relieved'' to have completed her
doctoral studies, which focused on ''investigating the
molecular basis of cytochrome c functions''.
Cytochrome c is a multifunctional protein which contributes
to apoptosis. This is a controlled form of cell death, which
often has a protective effect in humans by eliminating some
cells, including some which have become infected or received
This is the first full doctoral study to explore the
implications of a cytochrome c mutation which has been found
in some members of a New Zealand family, with Dunedin
The family has been affected by low numbers of blood
platelets - cells required for blood clotting.
Ms Josephs said that the control of cell death was
''essential in diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer's
disease, which are characterised by either too little or too
much cell death respectively''.
The research had proved ''quite exciting'' and was clarifying
why the exact shape of the mutant protein made it more
effective in promoting cell death, and was also shedding new
light on platelet formation, she said.