Three-way research meeting

Prof Rob Walker, of the University of Otago Dunedin School of Medicine, gives an overview of ''the kidney in health and disease'', in Dunedin yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Prof Rob Walker, of the University of Otago Dunedin School of Medicine, gives an overview of ''the kidney in health and disease'', in Dunedin yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Medical researchers involved in three different study areas joined forces at a University of Otago research meeting yesterday to explore new ways of tackling several important challenges, including treating gout and kidney disease.

About 60 researchers, including at least two from Australia, attended the ''triple theme research meeting'', which was jointly hosted by the Otago kidney in health and disease research theme, as well as the Gut Health Network and the Otago arthritis research theme.

Among a series of distinguished contributors to the day-long meeting were Prof Lisa Stamp, a rheumatologist at the university's Christchurch campus, and director of the Otago University Arthritis Research Theme.

She had received the Rowheath Trust Award and Carl Smith Medal for Research in 2011.

Prof Stamp discussed the role of uric acid as a ''master regulator'' in the body, and problems involving excessive uric acid build-up in conditions such as gout.

She noted the benefits of reducing excessive uric acid levels in the management of gout, but warned that more research needed to be done, and that, in some circumstances, maintaining an excessively low uric acid level could also be potentially harmful.

Prof Rob Walker heads the department of medicine at Otago's Dunedin School of Medicine and is director of the Otago kidney in health and disease research theme.

He gave a talk which provided an overview of research involving this theme.

Prof Walker also said in an interview there were big benefits to be gained from researchers working more closely together.

Yesterday's first joint research meeting of the three research areas had also proved positive, he said.

He noted that aspects of uric acid production and management in the body involved the gut and the kidney, as well as aspects of arthritis, and it was appropriate that researchers involved in all these areas worked more closely together.

Among other contributors speaking was Prof Richard Kitching, a physician-scientist at the Centre for Inflammatory Diseases at Monash University, who is involved in research into an important cause of kidney disease.

- john.gibb@odt.co.nz