Dr Rebecca Pelekanos

NHMRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow

UQ Centre for Clinical Research
Faculty of Medicine
r.pelekanos@uq.edu.au
+61 7 334 65528

Overview

Dr Pelekanos’ research is diverse and she is starting to create her own niche: molecular endocrinology in the fields of paediatrics, pregnancy and stem cells. Dr Pelekanos’ focus has recently shifted to combining these areas of expertise to find novel treatments and determine causes of Cerebral Palsy. She is excited to continue this work into the future.

Dr Pelekanos works within the larger group lead by Prof. Nicholas Fisk (Executive Dean, Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, UQ). Dr Pelekanos was awarded her first large research grant as CIA ($145,000) in 2014, to investigate stem cell therapies in a rodent model of cerebral palsy. In previous appointments, Dr Pelekanos has been involved in the clinical production of placenta-derived MSC for clinical trial and the comparison of MSC from different murine and human organs. In 2010, Dr Pelekanos was awarded a prestigious Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Postdoctoral Training Fellowship that is allowing her to independently develop her research interests and has successfully attained more than $500,000 funding in the form of grants, fellowships and travel awards. Dr Pelekanos was awards a Dean’s commendation for her PhD thesis on growth hormone receptor activation mechanisms (top 10% of PhD graduates at UQ) and has presented her research at numerous local, national and international conferences and is an author on 15 peer-reviewed publications in journals including Science and Nature Structural and Molecular Biology.

ResearcherID: C-8546-2011​

ORCID ID: orcid.org/0000-0002-9463-7381

Qualifications

  • Bachelor of Biotechnology (Honours), The University of Queensland
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Molecular Cell Biology), The University of Queensland
  • Bachelor Applied Science (Biotech) Hons, Queensland University of Technology

Publications

View all Publications

Available Projects

  • Human placenta is rich in mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (MSC), with their origin widely presumed fetal. However, we found that in cultured placental MSC, a high frequency of maternal cell contamination occurred. We determined isolation conditions to yield fetal and separately maternal MSC during ex vivo expansion from human term placenta. Comparison of MSC populations within the same placenta confirmed fetal to be smaller, more osteogenic and proliferative than maternal MSC. The next step is to thoroughly compare fetal and maternal placenta-derived MSC for characteristics including gene expression, in vitro differentiation and in vivo disease models.

    Techniques: placental MSC isolation, cell culture, microscopy, microarray gene expression analysis, and in vitro and in vivo cell assays.

    This project could be tailored to any type of student including undergraduate research projects, honours, MPhil, PhD, medical students, trainees or clinicians.

  • Cerebral palsy arises from damage to the immature brain, possibly caused by a lack of oxygen and blood supply around the time of birth. It is the single greatest cause of childhood disability, impacting than 1 in 500 young Australians. Using a rat model of brain damage in the premature infant (P3 neonatal rat hypoxic ischemia model), we will investigate whether new treatments, placenta-derived human or rat mesenchymal stem cell therapy alone or in combination with growth factors can repair brain damage and prevent long term problems like cerebral palsy.

    Techniques: animal handling, preparing and analysing brain samples for histology, PCR, cell culture, immunohistochemistry, microscopy.

    This project could be tailored to any type of student including undergraduate research projects, honours, MPhil, PhD, medical students, trainees or clinicians

  • Despite cerebral palsy (CP) being the most common physical disability of childhood it remains under-researched. Based on results from a small number of existing studies we predict that many children with CP will have low levels of hormones required for normal development. These low levels may contribute to the poor growth of muscle/bones and brains of children with CP despite adequate nutrition and physiotherapy. Measuring levels of key hormones in children with CP will provide results to develop new therapies.

    Techniques: compile and statistically analyse a variety of clinical data from a cohort study of children with cerebral palsy.

    This project could be tailored to any type of student including undergraduate research projects, honours, MPhil, PhD, medical students, trainees or clinicians.

View all Available Projects

Publications

Featured Publications

Journal Article

Conference Publication

  • Brooks, Andrew, Dai, W., O'Mara, M. L., Abankwa, D., Chhabra, Y., Pelekanos, R. A., Gardon, O., Tunny, K. A., Blucher, K. M., Morton, C. J., Parker, M. W., Sierecki, E., Gambin, Y., Gomez, G. A., Alexandrov, K., Wilson, I. A., Doxastakis, M., Mark, A. E. and Waters, M. J. (2016). Going downstream - how does GH binding activate JAK2. In: Annual Scientific Meeting of the Endocrine Society of Australia, Adelaide, Australia, (16-16). 23-26 August, 2015. doi:10.1111/cen.13010

  • Sardesai, Varda, Fisk, Nicholas and Pelekanos, Rebecca (2015). Isolation of fetal chorionic villi-derived mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the human term placenta - why is it a challenge?. In: IFPA 2015, Brisbane, Australia, (A26-A26). 8-11 September 2015. doi:10.1016/j.placenta.2015.07.263

Other Outputs

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Completed Supervision

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.

  • Human placenta is rich in mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (MSC), with their origin widely presumed fetal. However, we found that in cultured placental MSC, a high frequency of maternal cell contamination occurred. We determined isolation conditions to yield fetal and separately maternal MSC during ex vivo expansion from human term placenta. Comparison of MSC populations within the same placenta confirmed fetal to be smaller, more osteogenic and proliferative than maternal MSC. The next step is to thoroughly compare fetal and maternal placenta-derived MSC for characteristics including gene expression, in vitro differentiation and in vivo disease models.

    Techniques: placental MSC isolation, cell culture, microscopy, microarray gene expression analysis, and in vitro and in vivo cell assays.

    This project could be tailored to any type of student including undergraduate research projects, honours, MPhil, PhD, medical students, trainees or clinicians.

  • Cerebral palsy arises from damage to the immature brain, possibly caused by a lack of oxygen and blood supply around the time of birth. It is the single greatest cause of childhood disability, impacting than 1 in 500 young Australians. Using a rat model of brain damage in the premature infant (P3 neonatal rat hypoxic ischemia model), we will investigate whether new treatments, placenta-derived human or rat mesenchymal stem cell therapy alone or in combination with growth factors can repair brain damage and prevent long term problems like cerebral palsy.

    Techniques: animal handling, preparing and analysing brain samples for histology, PCR, cell culture, immunohistochemistry, microscopy.

    This project could be tailored to any type of student including undergraduate research projects, honours, MPhil, PhD, medical students, trainees or clinicians

  • Despite cerebral palsy (CP) being the most common physical disability of childhood it remains under-researched. Based on results from a small number of existing studies we predict that many children with CP will have low levels of hormones required for normal development. These low levels may contribute to the poor growth of muscle/bones and brains of children with CP despite adequate nutrition and physiotherapy. Measuring levels of key hormones in children with CP will provide results to develop new therapies.

    Techniques: compile and statistically analyse a variety of clinical data from a cohort study of children with cerebral palsy.

    This project could be tailored to any type of student including undergraduate research projects, honours, MPhil, PhD, medical students, trainees or clinicians.