Dominic Love’s exciting work has been honoured with the 2014 Paris Li Young Achievement Award. He was presented with the accolade last September, at the HRI’s 25th anniversary Awards for Excellence event at the iconic Sydney Opera House.
Dominic first fell for science at the age of seven, sitting wide-eyed beside his Dad in the cinema as Star Wars roared from the screen.
Now an advanced PhD student with the HRI, Dominic is eagerly breaking new ground, investigating the links between smoking and cardiovascular disease.
Dominic’s award-winning work has demonstrated that the smoking-associated oxidant hypothiocyanous acid (HOSCN) can disturb the energy production within macrophages, the white blood cells that play an important role in the initiation and development of atherosclerosis.
Oxidants are normally produced by the body to help fight infections. In atherosclerosis, however, chronic inflammation in the artery wall leads to excessive oxidant formation which can damage the surrounding cells and accelerate the development of disease.
Dominic’s work shows that the oxidant HOSCN targets the mitochondria, also known as the power house of the cell, within the macrophages. This disruption to energy production can lead to a cycle of cell death that destabilises the fatty plaques in diseased arteries, a situation that can precede a heart attack or stroke. “Smokers have been found to have high levels of SCN (the precursor of HOSCN) in their plasma,” says Dominic. “This is mainly due to the toxic by-products of cigarette smoke. So it has been shown that those people with high SCN (and therefore HOSCN) are predisposed to atherosclerosis.”
Sydney born and bred, Dominic began his undergraduate studies in science at the University of Western Sydney, majoring in Biology. In 2012, Dominic joined the HRI’s Inflammation Group and expects to complete his doctorate with the HRI later this year.
In 2013, Dominic received the prestigious Young Investigator Award for his oral presentation at the Joint Meeting of the Societies for Free Radical Research Australasia and Japan.
More recently, Dominic’s research has evolved into investigating how HOSCN alters other energy producing mechanisms within macrophages, generally termed the “bioenergetics” of cells.
Dominic is thrilled to receive the award. “It’s been fantastic, I’ve been able to extend my project,” he says. “The award has given me the independence to think about different experiments and to push my research in new directions.”
Ultimately, Dominic’s work has the exciting potential to enable screening for early atherosclerosis and subsequent risk of heart disease and stroke.