I am a Professor of Biochemistry in the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences at UNSW Sydney where I teach on the biochemistry of fats (lipids) to science and medical students. This has given me an interest in dietary fats, facts and fads, and I contribute the occasional article on these to The Conversation.
For the last couple of decades, my research has focused on one particular lipid which has become a by-word for heart disease risk, cholesterol. In fact, the cells in our body need cholesterol. However, too much cholesterol in our cells can cause disease, including heart disease. Therefore we have evolved an elaborate system for keeping the cholesterol content of our cells under tight-control. I had the privilege to work in the laboratory of Nobel laureates, Drs Joe Goldstein and Mike Brown in Dallas, who over the past three decades have revealed layer after layer of complexity of how cells regulate their cholesterol levels.
Since establishing my lab at UNSW, my talented team has made several major discoveries, including finding a link between an important signalling molecule (Akt) and cholesterol metabolism, as well as identifying squalene monooxygenase as a novel control point in cholesterol synthesis. These discoveries have lead our lab to investigate the molecular links between cholesterol and cancer (particularly prostate cancer), and the regulation of novel control points later in cholesterol synthesis, which have been largely overlooked until now.