Dr Mitchell Sullivan

Honorary Fellow

Mater Research Institute-UQ
Faculty of Medicine

Overview

Dr Mitchell Anthony Sullivan is a CJ Martin Early Career Research Fellow, funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). Mitchell has a postdoctoral position in Professor Josephine Forbes’ Glycation and Diabetes research group at the Translational Research Institute. With a keen interest in the role of the blood-sugar storage molecule glycogen in health and disease, Mitchell has used the techniques he developed in his PhD, supervised by Prof. Robert Gilbert, to examine the important role this molecule has in diseases such as diabetes, Lafora disease and Adult Polyglucosan Body Disease. Currently he is extending this research into the field of diabetic kidney disease, combining the skills and knowledge he obtained in a 2-year postdoctoral position in Toronto with Prof. Berge Minassian, with the kidney expertise of Prof. Forbes. Awards received by Mitchell include the Biochemistry Alumni Prize (2008), awarded to the top ranked student at UQ in 3 biology/biochemistry course and the Chemistry Honours Research Prize (2010), awarded to “the student who, in completing a BSc (Honours) in the field of Chemistry, demonstrated a high level of achievement in the research component of the program and a high potential for independent research.” Mitchell was an organizing committee member for the Annual RACI Polymer Student Symposium (2013) and is currently a member of the Translation Research Institute Mentoring Committee. While less than 3 years from completing his PhD, Mitchell has 23 publication involving collaboration in China, Sweden, Canada, USA and Spain.

Personal statement: “Ever since beginning my research career as an undergraduate, I have thoroughly enjoyed the privilege of being able to pursue research questions I am passionate about. The opportunity to add new information and insights into the shared knowledge pool of the global scientific community is greatly appreciated. I will continue to relish these opportunities and strive to perform research to the best of my ability, with the goal of maximising a beneficial impact. As I advance through my career I will also endeavour to encourage and support my colleagues, helping foster a collaborative and fruitful environment to perform research.”

Research Impacts

Dr Mitchell Sullivan's PhD developed a number of techniques that allowed him to analyse the key structural features of glycogen, a highly branched macromolecule of ~50,000 glucose units. These techniques enabled his collaborative discovery that the diabetic liver contains fragile glycogen molecules, making them susceptible to uncontrolled degradation into glucose. The award of an NHMRC CJ Martin Fellowship allowed him to further his research in Toronto. The techniques Dr Sullivan developed in his PhD allowed him to analyse glycogen from various glycogen storage diseases (GSDs), leading to key breakthroughs in our understanding on the formation of the pathological glycogen accumulations characteristic of these diseases. In Toronto he continued to acquire and develop new methods that are essential in understanding the malformed glycogen present in these various GSDs. He is now using these skills to analyse the role of glycogen in diabetic kidney disease.

Publications

View all Publications

Grants

View all Grants

Available Projects

  • Type 2 diabetes is Australia’s largest healthcare burden, with almost 2 million people suffering from the disease and ˜30% developing diabetic kidney disease. This study will characterise kidney glycogen accumulation, relating it to glycaemic control and kidney function over a time course of type 2 diabetes. This research will provide novel insight into how abnormalities in renal glucose handling and storage may contribute to kidney damage in type 2 diabetes, potentially leading to new therapies that mitigate diabetic kidney disease.

    Hypothesis: Renal glycogen accumulation occurs in type 2 diabetes contributing to kidney damage.

    Aims:

    1. To relate changes in renal glycogen accumulation to glycaemic control and kidney damage over a time course of diabetes.
    2. To analyse the structure of diabetic kidney glycogen and determine if it accumulates into insoluble polyglucosan bodies.
    3. To determine the effects of glucose and insulin on glycogen accumulation in the kidney, including the effect of the kidney-targeted glucose lowering SGLT2 inhibitor, empagliflozin.

View all Available Projects

Publications

Journal Article

Conference Publication

  • Tan, Xinle, Deng, Bin, Jiang, Xiaoyin, Zhang, Peng, Hu, Zhenxia, Li, Enpeng, Sullivan, Mitchell A., Schulz, Benjamin L. and Gilbert, Robert G. (2016). Glycogen: Higher -Level Molecular Structure and Diabetes. In: Proceedings of the 12th International Conference On Polysaccharides-Glycoscience, 2016. 12th International Conference on Polysaccharides-Glycoscience, Prague Czech Republic, (7-8). 19-21 October 2016.

  • Gilbert, Robert G. and Sullivan, Mitchell A. (2014). The molecular size distribution of glycogen and its relevance to diabetes. In: Special issue containing papers collected from the 34th Australasian Polymer Symposium (34APS). 34th Australasian Polymer Symposium, Darwin, Australia, (538-543). 7-10 July 2013. doi:10.1071/CH13573

  • Vilaplana, Francisco, Sullivan, Mitchell A., Hasjim, Jovin and Gilbert, Robert G. (2011). Biosynthesis - structure - property relations for branched polysaccharides as revealed by two-dimensional macromolecular size/branch chain-length distributions. In: Proceedings of the European Polymer Congress 2011 and the XII Congress of the Specialized Group of Polymers: Congress Program. EPF 2011: European Polymer Federation Conference, Granada, Spain, (49-49). 26 June-1 July 2011.

Grants (Administered at UQ)

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • Type 2 diabetes is Australia’s largest healthcare burden, with almost 2 million people suffering from the disease and ˜30% developing diabetic kidney disease. This study will characterise kidney glycogen accumulation, relating it to glycaemic control and kidney function over a time course of type 2 diabetes. This research will provide novel insight into how abnormalities in renal glucose handling and storage may contribute to kidney damage in type 2 diabetes, potentially leading to new therapies that mitigate diabetic kidney disease.

    Hypothesis: Renal glycogen accumulation occurs in type 2 diabetes contributing to kidney damage.

    Aims:

    1. To relate changes in renal glycogen accumulation to glycaemic control and kidney damage over a time course of diabetes.
    2. To analyse the structure of diabetic kidney glycogen and determine if it accumulates into insoluble polyglucosan bodies.
    3. To determine the effects of glucose and insulin on glycogen accumulation in the kidney, including the effect of the kidney-targeted glucose lowering SGLT2 inhibitor, empagliflozin.