IMB student investigating inflammation

2 Oct 2015

University of Queensland PhD student Zoe Schofield is investigating the link between gut bacteria, diet and the human immune system to reduce inflammatory injury.

Ms Schofield, from UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), recently competed as a New Investigator Award finalist at the 12th World Congress on Inflammation in Boston, United States.

She is researching the protective role of acetate in ischemia reperfusion injury —damage that occurs when blood returns to a tissue after a period without blood flow — which causes heart attack, stroke and complications in surgery and organ transplant.

Ms Schofield was awarded 2nd prize for her research presentation.

“I am very excited about my work and its potential to reduce the high death and disease rate from ischemia reperfusion injury,” Ms Schofield said.

“I am looking at intestinal ischemia reperfusion injury, which occurs frequently during abdominal surgery, small bowel transplantation, hemorrhagic shock, and surgery using cardiopulmonary bypass.

“When blood is blocked form an organ for a period of time, such as during surgery or by a blood clot, the return of blood (reperfusion) can cause inflammation, which leads to organ damage.

Ms Scholfield said short-chain fatty acids such as acetate are produced in the gut when food is broken down by bacteria, and that these can regulate the function of immune cells.

“I have shown that acetate protects against this inflammation and injury, possibly by regulating the immune cells that promote inflammation,” she said.

The New Investigator Award encourages young scientists to perform exploratory and applied research in the field of inflammation.

IMB Deputy Director (Research) Professor Jenny Stow congratulated Ms Schofield on her award and her promising research.

“Being invited to present your research at a scientific conference is a great achievement, and I’d like to congratulate Zoe for doing IMB proud as a New Investigator Award finalist,” Professor Stow said.

“Scientific conferences provide an important opportunity for our research higher degree students to establish themselves as part of the global research community, make new collaborations, share ideas and network with their peers, and learn about the latest discoveries from the world’s best researchers.

“Zoe’s research has the potential to create change in the lives of people who experience ischemia reperfusion injury, and I look forward to following her progress.”

Contact: IMB Communications,, 07 3346 2134.