School of Science

Permanent link for this collection

Research at AUT's School of Science is focused on key scientific issues with regional and global significance. The common theme connecting all research areas is sustainability – in the broadest sense as it relates to environmental and human health. Our research is closely allied to teaching and learning opportunities at undergraduate and postgraduate level within the school. Research is organised in three thematic areas:


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 5 of 189
  • Item
    Light-Switchable Membrane Permeability in Giant Unilamellar Vesicles
    (MDPI AG, 2022-12-12) Albanese, P; Cataldini, S; Ren, CZJ; Valletti, N; Brunetti, J; Chen, JLY; Rossi, F
    In this work, giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) were synthesized by blending the natural phospholipid 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (POPC) with a photoswitchable amphiphile (1) that undergoes photoisomerization upon irradiation with UV-A (E to Z) and blue (Z to E) light. The mixed vesicles showed marked changes in behavior in response to UV light, including changes in morphology and the opening of pores. The fine control of membrane permeability with consequent cargo release could be attained by modulating either the UV irradiation intensity or the membrane composition. As a proof of concept, the photocontrolled release of sucrose from mixed GUVs is demonstrated using microscopy (phase contrast) and confocal studies. The permeability of the GUVs to sucrose could be increased to ~4 × 10–2 μm/s when the system was illuminated by UV light. With respect to previously reported systems (entirely composed of synthetic amphiphiles), our findings demonstrate the potential of photosensitive GUVs that are mainly composed of natural lipids to be used in medical and biomedical applications, such as targeted drug delivery and localized topical treatments.
  • Item
    Emerging Intrinsic Therapeutic Targets for Metastatic Breast Cancer
    (MDPI AG, 2023-05-09) Li, Jiawei; Goh, Eyleen LK; He, Ji; Li, Yan; Fan, Zhimin; Yu, Zhigang; Yuan, Peng; Liu, Dong-Xu
    Breast cancer is now the most common cancer worldwide, and it is also the main cause of cancer-related death in women. Survival rates for female breast cancer have significantly improved due to early diagnosis and better treatment. Nevertheless, for patients with advanced or metastatic breast cancer, the survival rate is still low, reflecting a need for the development of new therapies. Mechanistic insights into metastatic breast cancer have provided excellent opportunities for developing novel therapeutic strategies. Although high-throughput approaches have identified several therapeutic targets in metastatic disease, some subtypes such as triple-negative breast cancer do not yet have an apparent tumor-specific receptor or pathway to target. Therefore, exploring new druggable targets in metastatic disease is a high clinical priority. In this review, we summarize the emerging intrinsic therapeutic targets for metastatic breast cancer, including cyclin D-dependent kinases CDK4 and CDK6, the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway, the insulin/IGF1R pathway, the EGFR/HER family, the JAK/STAT pathway, poly(ADP-ribose) polymerases (PARP), TROP-2, Src kinases, histone modification enzymes, activated growth factor receptors, androgen receptors, breast cancer stem cells, matrix metalloproteinases, and immune checkpoint proteins. We also review the latest development in breast cancer immunotherapy. Drugs that target these molecules/pathways are either already FDA-approved or currently being tested in clinical trials.
  • Item
    The Footprint of Ship Anchoring on the Seafloor
    (Copernicus GmbH, 2023-02-26) Watson, Sally; Ribo, Marta; Seabrook, Sarah; Strachan, Lorna; Hale, Rachel; Lamarche, Geoffroy
    With the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus came what media has deemed the “port congestion pandemic”. Since it began, thousands of ships have been reported waiting outside heavily congested ports relying on anchoring gear to hold fast. While the shipping industry is known to contribute to air, water and noise pollution, the physical impact of shipping practices, such as anchor use on the seafloor, has received much less attention. With a regional survey using high-resolution (1 m) bathymetry data of a comparatively low congestion port in New Zealand-Aotearoa, we demonstrate that high-tonnage ship anchors excavate the seabed by up to 80 cm and the associated impacts are preserved for at least 4 years. This is the first characterisation of the intensity and extent of damage to the seafloor and benthic environment caused by high-tonnage ship anchoring. We demonstrate that the observed seabed damage is attributed to high-tonnage passenger and cargo vessels. Anchor use in port regions has significantly changed the structure of the seafloor, with downstream impacts on benthic habitats and ecosystem functions. Extrapolating these findings to a global scale, we estimate that between 6,000 and 20,000 km2 of coastal seafloor is adversely affected. With the predicted increase in global marine traffic, a less destructive method of managing high-tonnage vessels awaiting port calls is necessary to mitigate the impact of maritime activities on chemically and biologically important shallow marine environments.
  • Item
    Land Use Modification Causes Slow, but Predictable, Change in Soil Microbial Community Composition and Functional Potential
    (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2023-04-06) Louisson, Z; Hermans, SM; Buckley, HL; Case, BS; Taylor, M; Curran-Cournane, F; Lear, G
    BACKGROUND: Bacterial communities are critical to ecosystem functioning and sensitive to their surrounding physiochemical environment. However, the impact of land use change on microbial communities remains understudied. We used 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing and shotgun metagenomics to assess soil microbial communities' taxonomic and functional responses to land use change. We compared data from long-term grassland, exotic forest and horticulture reference sites to data from sites that transitioned from (i) Grassland to exotic forest or horticulture and from (ii) Exotic forest to grassland. RESULTS: Community taxonomic and functional profiles of the transitional sites significantly differed from those within reference sites representing both their historic and current land uses (P < 0.001). The bacterial communities in sites that transitioned more recently were compositionally more similar to those representing their historic land uses. In contrast, the composition of communities from sites exposed to older conversion events had shifted towards the compositions at reference sites representing their current land use. CONCLUSIONS: Our study indicates that microbial communities respond in a somewhat predictable way after a land use conversion event by shifting from communities reflecting their former land use towards those reflecting their current land use. Our findings help us to better understand the legacy effects of land use change on soil microbial communities and implications for their role in soil health and ecosystem functioning. Understanding the responsiveness of microbial communities to environmental disturbances will aid us in incorporating biotic variables into soil health monitoring techniques in the future.
  • Item
    Ecosystem Integrity of Active Sand Dunes: A Case Study to Implement and Test the SEEA-EA Global Standard, From Aotearoa New Zealand
    (Elsevier BV, 2023-05-01) Ryan, C; Case, BS; Bishop, CD; Buckley, HL
    Biodiversity and ecosystem functions are deteriorating worldwide, and there is an urgent need to reverse these declines and set ecosystems on a path to recovery. Effective monitoring, including a fit for purpose indicator framework, is essential to track progress towards targets but, as yet there is no universal framework that delivers timely data on biodiversity and ecosystem change. Ecosystem integrity is a unifying concept that refers to the capacity of an ecosystem to be resilient to natural or anthropogenic perturbations, and to maintain characteristic species composition, structure, functioning and self-organisation over time within a natural range of variability. Using a case study which can be generalised to international contexts, we implement and test a new global standard for the assessment, monitoring and ranking of ecosystem integrity of active sand dunes in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Items in these collections are protected by the Copyright Act 1994 (New Zealand). These works may be consulted by you, provided you comply with the provisions of the Act and the following conditions of use:
  • Any use you make of these works must be for research or private study purposes only, and you may not make them available to any other person.
  • Authors control the copyright of their works. You will recognise the author’s right to be identified as the author of the work, and due acknowledgement will be made to the author where appropriate.
  • You will obtain the author’s permission before publishing any material from the work.