Joanne Tan

Joanne Tan

Adelaide Medical School

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD - email supervisor to discuss availability.

Joanne is a senior postdoctoral researcher at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute where she leads the miRNAs and Diabetes research programs in the Vascular Research Centre, Heart & Vascular Health Program, Lifelong Health Theme. She is also an Affiliate Senior Lecturer at The University of Adelaide. She is a vascular biologist with interests and expertise in angiogenesis and diabetes-impaired cellular mechanisms. She completed her PhD at The University of Sydney in 2007 where she looked at the role of adipocyte differentiation in the development of metabolic syndrome. She then began her postdoctoral training at the Heart Research Institute where she explored the vasculoprotective effects of high-density lipoproteins (HDL), with a particular focus on the role of HDL in angiogenesis-associated diseases. Her current research interests include exploring novel therapeutic targets that will alleviate vascular complications associated with diabetes.

Research Program: The prevalence of diabetes and its associated vascular complications are on the rise. Despite advances in management, many patients remain refractory to current treatments. As diabetes and its vascular complications impose a huge health and economic burden, highlighting a significant unmet clinical need for the discovery of new biomarkers that detect severity of disease and the development of novel treatments. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that post-transcriptionally regulate gene expression by targeting mRNAs causing either partial or complete translational repression. miRNAs have emerged as versatile targets for clinical therapeutics in complex multifaceted diseases such as diabetes and are the leading biopharmaceuticals in next generation medicine. miRNAs are stable in the circulation and studies have shown that miRNA profiles change with severity of disease. We have recently identified that the miRNA, miR-181c has novel anti-angiogenic properties and is important in diabetes-impaired angiogenic responses. Our group are seeking to explore whether miR-181c and other novel miRNA targets can act as both clinical biomarkers and therapeutic targets to alleviate the burden of diabetic vascular complications.

Research Project 1:

Title:  miRNAs as clinical biomarkers for diabetic vascular complications

Project description: Circulating miRNAs have emerged as novel biomarkers and HDL miRNA content differs with disease states. Our preliminary data suggest that elevated HDL-bound miR-181c levels may be a novel biomarker reflective of diabetic vascular complications and provide insight into the extent of HDL functionality which may contribute to the impaired responses in diabetes seen in the Aboriginal population. Whether this biomarker is unique to the Aboriginal population or if the non-Indigenous population also have elevated HDL-miR-181c levels remains to be determined. We seek to assess whether circulating and HDL-bound miRNAs can serve as diagnostic biomarkers reflective of disease severity in different populations. We will comprehensively elucidate miRNA profiles in individuals without diabetes, with diabetes and with diabetes-associated vascular complications. Functional angiogenic capacity of the isolated HDL will be assessed using the Matrigel tubulogenesis assay in vitro and correlated with HDL miRNA profiles. This project will provide the opportunity to learn a broad range of techniques including HDL isolation, tissue culture, RNA isolation and qPCR.

Projects available for: Honours/HDR

Location: SAHMRI


Research Project 2:

Title:  The use of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) as a novel theranostic miRNA delivery agent

Project description: There is growing evidence that targeted miRNA modulation is extremely feasible and may be more clinically effective in multifaceted diseases. Our preliminary findings suggest that miR-181c inhibition has significant promise to therapeutically reverse the impaired angiogenic response in diabetes. The biggest challenge in miRNA therapeutics is to safely and efficiently transport them to targeted cells and tissues. There is a switching focus for the use of HDL with the revelation of its emerging potential as a delivery agent. rHDL complexes composed of apolipoprotein (apo)A-I, the main protein component of HDL, and phospholipids can encapsulate drugs. Furthermore, HDL are known carriers of endogenous miRNAs, delivering them to recipient cells and imparting significant functional gene regulatory consequences. The use of HDL complexes to deliver miRNAs to prevent diabetic vascular complications has never been explored. This project will determine the efficacy of HDL-mediated delivery of miRNAs in endothelial cells in vitro and in and in vivo model of diabetic vascular complications. This project will provide the opportunity to learn a broad range of techniques including tissue culture, RT-PCR, Western blotting, HDL isolation and provide experience with an animal surgical model of angiogenesis.

Projects available for: Honours/HDR

Location: SAHMRI

Diabetes Australia Research Trust 2017 General Grant

“Micromanaging” high density lipoprotein-induced rescue of diabetes-impaired angiogenesis

  • Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2024 Co-Supervisor Deletion of the asialoglycoprotein receptor 1 (ASGR1) to prevent athersclerotic cardiovascular disease Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Liam George Stretton
  • Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2019 - 2023 Principal Supervisor MicroRNA-181c-5p - A Novel Therapeutic Target for the Rescue of Diabetes-Impaired Angiogenesis Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Emma Louise Solly
    2019 - 2023 Co-Supervisor The Role of Endothelial Cell Metabolic Reprogramming in Diabetes impaired Angiogenesis Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Khalia Rose Primer
    2018 - 2023 Co-Supervisor Investigating the theranostic properties of apoA-I-linked porphyrin-lipid nanoparticles in atherosclerosis Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Victoria Ann Nankivell

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