Adelaide Medical School
Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences
Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD - email supervisor to discuss availability.
Dr. Lisa Marie Nicholas leads the Epigenetics in Diabetes research group at the University of Adelaide.
The broad research aim of her group is to understand how a sub-optimal maternal metabolic environment both before and during pregnancy programs disadvantage in the offspring leading to health effects that persist across the life course.
Dr. Nicholas’ interest in the ‘Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD)’ i.e. how an individual’s risk of disease can be programmed by in utero/early life exposure to certain environmental influences e.g. maternal obesity, was sparked by a series of lectures during her undergraduate Biomedical Science degree at the University of Adelaide. Consequently, she pursued an Honours research year at the University of South Australia with Prof. Caroline McMillen where she investigated how exposure to maternal obesity at the time of conception led to dysfunctional hepatic gluconeogenic signalling in the offspring in a sheep model. During this time, she produced a thesis, which earned her her a First Class degree, ranked first in her year and was awarded numerous prizes including the University Medal. Dr. Nicholas continued on to doctoral studies with Prof. McMillen where her research focused on understanding how the time around conception acts as a critical developmental window where metabolic disease risk is programmed in the offspring via epigenetic mechanisms in liver and skeletal muscle.
Following award of her PhD in 2013, Dr. Nicholas moved to Sweden to work with Prof. Hindrik Mulder at Lund University Diabetes Centre. During her two years in Sweden, her research identified mitochondrial transcription factor B2 as being essential for mitochondrial and cellular function in pancreatic β-cells in a mouse model. She was then awarded a C J Martin Fellowship from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, which enabled her to leverage the research experience gained during post-doctoral training in Sweden with her experience in DOHaD and to apply it an area of science that fascinates her; that is how exposure to maternal obesity can program type 2 diabetes risk in the offspring through functional changes in pancreatic islets. For this, she spent four years at the University of Cambridge where she was mentored by Prof. Susan Ozanne. During this time, her research was also supported by grants from the European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes, the Isaac Newton Trust, Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation, the Society for Endocrinology and Novo Nordisk UK Research Foundation.
Dr. Nicholas returned to Australia in 2020 to establish her own research group.
The rising rate of obesity worldwide has health implications for future generations since obesity during pregnancy increases obesity and type 2 diabetes risk in the offspring. Given that nearly half of women of child-bearing age in many populations are currently overweight/obese, it is important that we understand what factors are driving this metabolic disease risk in the child and how this occurs. Specifically, we are interested in investigating:
- The sex-specific impact of exposure to maternal and postnatal obesity and their interaction on metabolic outcomes and pancreatic β-cell function in offspring
- The epigenetic mechanisms regulating functional changes in the β-cells of offspring
- Which of these mechanisms are also implicated in β-cell function in humans
Current Student Projects
Project 1: Defining epigenetic networks in pancreatic β-cells driving sex differences in type 2 diabetes risk.
Description: This project will investigate, using a mouse model, how exposure to maternal obesity alters the relationship between the epigenome, transcriptome and cellular function in pancreatic β-cells of offspring, leading to higher risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D) in males compared to females. Importantly, we will also determine whether methylation and transcription of these genes are also altered in human islets from T2D donors and whether these changes are associated with particular donor characteristics including sex, body mass index and diabetic status i.e. pre-T2D vs. T2D. This will inform us about whether these same genes are also implicated in the development and progression of T2D in humans.
Skills learned during this project: Working with primary human and rodent islets, animal models of obesity and diabetes and human beta cell lines, molecular biology techniques, computational biology.
Project available for: Honours and HDR
Location: SAHMRI and Adelaide Health & Medical Sciences Building
Research Project Start: Semester 1 or Semester 2 2022
Project 2: Investigating the role of epigenetics in mediating future metabolic risk in Aboriginal children exposed to gestational diabetes.
Description: This project will identify whether exposure to gestational diabetes leads to unique changes in the blood epigenetic landscape of Aboriginal children at birth, which persists in early childhood, and is associated with clinical outcomes in mothers with gestational diabetes and their children.
Skills learned during this project: Molecular biology techniques, computational biology.
Project available for: Honours and HDR
Location: SAHMRI and Adelaide Health & Medical Sciences Building
Research Project Start: Semester 1 or Semester 2 2022
Date Position Institution name 2020 - ongoing Senior Research Fellow University of Adelaide 2019 - 2019 Analyst Costello Medical Consulting (United Kingdom) 2016 - 2019 Research Fellow University of Cambridge 2014 - 2015 Research Associate Lund University 2007 - 2007 Business Analyst Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation
Awards and Achievements
Date Type Title Institution Name Country Amount 2019 Fellowship Company of Biologists Travelling Fellowship Company of Biologists United Kingdom 2019 Award Danish Diabetes Academy Poster Prize Non-coding RNAs in Metabolic Disease Conference Danish Diabetes Academy Denmark 2018 Award Society for Endocrinology Travel Grant Society for Endocrinology United Kingdom 2018 Award Disease Models and Mechanisms Conference Travel Grant Disease Models and Mechanisms United Kingdom 2017 Award European Association for the Study of Diabetes Travel Grant European Association for the Study of Diabetes Germany 2015 Award American Diabetes Association Young Investigator Award American Diabetes Association United States 2015 Award Lund Physiografen Society Travel Grant Lund Physiografen Society Sweden 2014 Award European Association for the Study of Diabetes Travel Grant European Association for the Study of Diabetes Germany 2013 Award Healthy Development Adelaide Travel Grant Healthy Development Adelaide Australia 2011 Award Wellcome Trust Young Investigator Bursary Wellcome Trust United Kingdom 2011 Award Sansom Institute for Health Research Travel Grant University of South Australia Australia 2011 Award Women's & Children's Hospital Foundation Young Investigator Award, Runner-up Women's & Children's Hospital Foundation Australia 2011 Award University of South Australia Division of Health Sciences Three Minute Thesis 3MT™ Competition, People’s Choice Winner University of South Australia Australia 2011 Award Healthy Development Adelaide Travel Grant Healthy Development Adelaide Australia 2010 Award Society for Reproductive Investigation (SRI)/ Pfizer President's Presenter Award Society for Reproductive Investigation (SRI)/ Pfizer United States 2010 Award Sansom Institute for Health Research Travel Grant University of South Australia Australia 2009 Award Network in Genes and Environment in Development (NGED) Laboratory Interchange Award Network in Genes and Environment in Development Australia 2009 Award University of South Australia Medal University of South Australia Australia 2009 Distinction Chancellor’s Letters of Commendation University of South Australia Australia 2009 Award John Alexander Voules Brown Prize University of South Australia Australia 2009 Award Novozymes Biopharma AU Limited Prize University of Australia Australia
Language Competency English Can read, write, speak, understand spoken and peer review Malay Can read, write, speak and understand spoken
Date Institution name Country Title 2009 - 2013 University of South Australia Australia PhD 2008 - 2008 University of South Australia Australia Bachelor of Medical and Pharmaceutical Biotechnology 2002 - 2005 University of Adelaide Australia Bachelor of Science (Biomedical Science)
Year Citation 2021 Spiroski, A. M., Niu, Y., Nicholas, L. M., Austin-Williams, S., Camm, E. J., Sutherland, M. R., . . . Giussani, D. A. (2021). Mitochondria antioxidant protection against cardiovascular dysfunction programmed by early-onset gestational hypoxia. FASEB journal : official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, 35(5), 1-15.
DOI Scopus6 Europe PMC4
2021 O’Hara, S. E., Gembus, K. M., & Nicholas, L. M. (2021). Understanding the long-lasting effects of fetal nutrient restriction versus exposure to an obesogenic diet on islet-cell mass and function. Metabolites, 11(8), 1-18.
DOI Scopus1 WoS1 Europe PMC1
2020 Teulings, N. E. W. D., Garrud, T. A. C., Niu, Y., Skeffington, K. L., Beck, C., Itani, N., . . . Giussani, D. A. (2020). Isolating adverse effects of glucocorticoids on the embryonic cardiovascular system.. FASEB J, 34(7), 9664-9677.
DOI Scopus4 WoS3 Europe PMC1
2020 Nicholas, L. M., Nagao, M., Kusinski, L. C., Fernandez-Twinn, D. S., Eliasson, L., & Ozanne, S. E. (2020). Exposure to maternal obesity programs sex differences in pancreatic islets of the offspring in mice. Diabetologia, 63(2), 324-337.
DOI Scopus21 WoS19 Europe PMC10
2019 Nicholas, L. M., & Ozanne, S. E. (2019). Early life programming in mice by maternal overnutrition: mechanistic insights and interventional approaches.. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences, 374(1770), 20180116.
DOI Scopus16 WoS14 Europe PMC8
2018 Fex, M., Nicholas, L. M., Vishnu, N., Medina, A., Sharoyko, V. V., Nicholls, D. G., . . . Mulder, H. (2018). The pathogenetic role of β-cell mitochondria in type 2 diabetes. Journal of Endocrinology, 236(3), 145-159.
DOI Scopus43 Europe PMC22
2017 Ghazanfar, S., Vuocolo, T., Morrison, J., Nicholas, L., McMillen, I., Yang, J., . . . Tellam, R. (2017). Gene expression allelic imbalance in ovine brown adipose tissue impacts energy homeostasis. PLoS ONE, 12(6), e0180378.
DOI Scopus6 Europe PMC2
2017 Nicholas, L. M., Valtat, B., Medina, A., Andersson, L., Abels, M., Mollet, I. G., . . . Mulder, H. (2017). Mitochondrial transcription factor B2 is essential for mitochondrial and cellular function in pancreatic β-cells.. Molecular metabolism, 6(7), 651-663.
DOI Scopus23 WoS24 Europe PMC17
2016 Andersson, L., Nicholas, L., Filipsson, K., Sun, J., Medina, A., Al-Majdoub, M., . . . Spégel, P. (2016). Glycogen metabolism in the glucose-sensing and supply-driven β-cell. FEBS Letters, 590(23), 4242-4251.
DOI Scopus7 WoS6 Europe PMC5
2016 Nicholas, L., Morrison, J., Rattanatray, L., Zhang, S., Ozanne, S., & McMillen, I. (2016). The early origins of obesity and insulin resistance: Timing, programming and mechanisms. International Journal of Obesity, 40(2), 229-238.
DOI Scopus92 WoS83 Europe PMC58
2014 Sharoyko, V. V., Abels, M., Sun, J., Nicholas, L. M., Mollet, I. G., Stamenkovic, J. A., . . . Mulder, H. (2014). Loss of TFB1M results in mitochondrial dysfunction that leads to impaired insulin secretion and diabetes. Human Molecular Genetics, 23(21), 5733-5749.
DOI Scopus31 WoS30 Europe PMC22
2014 Rattanatray, L., Muhlhausler, B., Nicholas, L., Morrison, J., & McMillen, I. (2014). Impact of maternal overnutrition on gluconeogenic factors and methylation of the phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase promoter in the fetal and postnatal liver. Pediatric Research, 75(1), 14-21.
DOI Scopus9 WoS10 Europe PMC7
2014 Nicholas, L., Rattanatray, L., Morrison, J., Kleemann, D., Walker, S., Zhang, S., . . . McMillen, I. (2014). Maternal obesity or weight loss around conception impacts hepatic fatty acid metabolism in the offspring. Obesity, 22(7), 1685-1693.
DOI Scopus19 WoS20 Europe PMC17
2013 Nicholas, L., Morrison, J., Rattanatray, L., Ozanne, S., Kleemann, D., Walker, S., . . . McMillen, I. (2013). Differential effects of exposure to maternal obesity or maternal weight loss during the periconceptional period in the sheep on insulin signalling molecules in skeletal muscle of the offspring at 4 months of age. PLoS One, 8(12), 1-11.
DOI Scopus24 WoS22 Europe PMC13
2013 Nicholas, L., Rattanatray, L., MacLaughlin, S., Ozanne, S., Kleemann, D., Walker, S., . . . McMillen, I. (2013). Differential effects of maternal obesity and weight loss in the periconceptional period on the epigenetic regulation of hepatic insulin-signaling pathways in the offspring. The FASEB Journal, 27(9), 3786-3796.
DOI Scopus85 WoS83 Europe PMC65
2012 McMillen, I. C., Nicholas, L. M., Rattanatray, L., Zhang, S., Lei, S., & Morrison, J. L. (2012). Perinatal nutrition and implications for lifelong health lessons from animal model studies. Australasian Medical Journal, 5(12), 649. 2011 Zhang, S., Rattanatray, L., Morrison, J., Nicholas, L., Lie, S., & McMillen, I. (2011). Maternal obesity and the early origins of childhood obesity: Weighing up the benefits and costs of maternal weight loss in the periconceptional period for the offspring. Experimental Diabetes Research, 2011, 10 pages.
DOI Scopus54 WoS49 Europe PMC32
Nicholas, L. M., Nagao, M., Kusinski, L. C., Fernandez-Twinn, D. S., Eliasson, L., & Ozanne, S. E. (n.d.). Exposure to maternal obesity<i>per se</i>programs sex-differences in pancreatic islets of the offspring.
Year Citation 2020 Sandovici, I., Nicholas, L. M., & O’Neill, L. P. (2020). Analysis of histone modifications in rodent pancreatic islets by native chromatin immunoprecipitation. In C. Stocker (Ed.), Type 2 Diabetes (Vol. 2076, pp. 199-213). New York, NY; U.S.A.: Humana Press.
2017 Nicholas, L. M., & Ozanne, S. E. (2017). The developmental origins of health and disease—where did it all begin?. In M. S. Patel, & J. H. Nielsen (Eds.), Fetal and Early Postnatal Programming and its Influence on Adult Health (pp. 3-15). Boca Raton, FL; USA: CRC Press.
2016 Nicholas, L. M., & McMillen, I. C. (2016). The impact of maternal obesity and weight loss during the periconceptional period on offspring metabolism. In L. Green, & R. Hester (Eds.), Parental Obesity: Intergenerational Programming and Consequences (pp. 133-162). New York, NY; Australia: Springer.
2014 Zhang, S., Lie, S., Nicholas, L., Rattanatray, L., Morrison, J., & McMillen, I. (2014). Stress and programming of metabolic disease. In Stress and Developmental Programming of Health and Disease: Beyond Phenomenology (pp. 87-130).
Jan 2016 - Dec 2017, Jan 2020 - Dec 2021
|The transgenerational epigenetic inheritance of parental obesity - C J Martin Fellowship||National Health and Medical Research Council||Principle Investigator||AUD 357,173|
|Sep 2018 - Apr 2019||
Exploring sex-specific programming of islet microRNAs by maternal diet-induced obesity
|European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes/Lilly||Principle Investigator||EUR 50,000|
|Jan - Aug 2018||
Exposure to maternal obesity and epigenetic inheritance of β-cell dysfunction in offspring
|Isaac Newton Trust||Principle Investigator||GBP 27,839|
|Oct 2017 - Sep 2018||
Exposure to maternal obesity and epigenetic inheritance of β-cell dysfunction in the offspring
|Novo Nordisk UK Research Foundation||Principle Investigator||GBP 11,000|
|May 2017 - Apr 2018||
The role of microRNAs in transducing the programming actions of maternal obesity on β-cell dysfunction in the offspring
|Society for Endocrinology||Principle Investigator||GBP 10,000|
|Feb 2017 - Jan 2018||
The role of microRNAs in transducing the programming actions of maternal obesity on β-cell dysfunction in the offspring and exploring their use as biomarkers
|Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation||Principle Investigator||GBP 20,000|
|Jan - Dec 2016||Delineating the role of mitochondrial transcription factor Tfb2m in mitochondrial function and insulin secretion in pancreatic beta cells||Albert Påhlssons Foundation for Research and Charity Grant||Principle Investigator||SEK 150,000|
|Jan - Dec 2015||Delineating the role of mitochondrial transcription factor Tfb2m in mitochondrial function and insulin secretion in pancreatic beta cells||Albert Påhlssons Foundation for Research and Charity Grant||Principle Investigator||SEK 100,000|
Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)
Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name 2021 Principal Supervisor Sex-specific epigenetic programming of offspring pancreatic beta-cells by maternal diet Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Stephanie Elise O'Hara
Other Supervision Activities
Date Role Research Topic Location Program Supervision Type Student Load Student Name 2017 - 2017 Co-Supervisor Molecular mechanisms underlying the direct adverse effects of antenatal glucocorticoid therapy on the fetal heart University of Cambridge British Heart Foundation PhD Programme in Cardiovascular Research Doctorate Full Time Noor Teulings
Date Topic Location Name 2019 - ongoing Navigating a career in academia, career opportunities outside of academia, networking University of Cambridge Grace Cooper 2019 - ongoing PhD studies, academic and non-academic career opportunities University of Cambridge Orla Woodward
Date Role Board name Institution name Country 2021 - ongoing Board Member Bioscientifica Trust Bioscientifica Trust United Kingdom 2011 - 2012 Board Member School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences Board University of South Australia Australia
Date Role Committee Institution Country 2020 - ongoing Member QueersInScience South Australia QueersInScience Australia 2014 - 2014 Chair Lund University Women in Great Sciences Annual Meeting Lund University Sweden 2011 - 2012 Representative School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences Research Management Committee University of South Australia Australia 2011 - 2012 Convener Australian Society for Medical Research South Australian Scientific Meeting Australian Society for Medical Research Australia 2011 - 2012 Co-Chair School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences Postgraduate Forum University of South Australia Australia
Date Title Engagement Type Institution Country 2019 - 2019 OUT Thinkers Public Community Engagement Cambridge Science Festival United Kingdom 2018 - 2019 Meet the Scientist Public Community Engagement Cambridge Science Festival United Kingdom 2013 - 2013 Volunteer, International Diabetes Federation World Diabetes Congress Scientific Community Engagement International Diabetes Federation Australia 2010 - 2012 Scientists in Schools Public Community Engagement The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Australia 2008 - 2011 Science Alive! Public Community Engagement National Science Week Australia
Date Role Editorial Board Name Institution Country 2017 - 2018 Board Member The Endocrinologist Society for Endocrinology United Kingdom
Date Event Name Event Type Institution Country 2018 - 2018 68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Physiology and Medicine Conference Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings Germany
Review, Assessment, Editorial and Advice
Date Title Type Institution Country 2019 - ongoing Expert reviewer Peer Review Journal of Molecular Endocrinology 2019 - ongoing Expert reviewer Peer Review EBioMedicine 2014 - ongoing Expert reviewer Peer Review Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology 2014 - ongoing Expert reviewer Peer Review PLoS One 2014 - ongoing Expert reviewer Peer Review British Journal of Nutrition
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