Liggins Institute


Public lectures

Throughout the year the Liggins Institute holds a number of public lectures relating to our key research themes. You can watch recordings of these lectures here.

The power & potential of the gut microbiome


Professor Wayne Cutfield, Dr Justin O'Sullivan, Dr Ben Albert

Liggins Institute

A ground-breaking study is underway at the Liggins Institute that might just be the simplest way to treat the obesity crisis yet. Gut bacteria taken from healthy donors - cleaned, encapsulated, and swallowed with a glass of water - could be the key to weight loss. The researchers behind the so-called 'Gut Bugs' trial think one treatment alone could be enough to change the course of a person's obesity, so they're trialing it in very overweight teenagers. This fascinating public lecture explains the science behind the trial and just how clever your resident bacteria are.

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How should we feed preterm babies for long-term health?


Barbara Cormack

PhD candidate
Liggins Institute

Around 2 million extremely low birthweight babies are born each year and each one has a high risk of developmental problems, obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Almost all these babies grow slowly in the first month, at a time when brain growth and development should be extremely rapid. In this ten minute presentation, Liggins Institute PhD candidate Barbara Cormack explains how nutrition affects the growth and development of preterm babies in the long-term and why a higher protein intake in the first five days after birth could improve a child’s growth, body composition and neurodevelopmental outcome at two years of age.

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Can your fish oil cause you harm?


Dr Ben Albert

PhD candidate
Liggins Institute

Dr Ben Albert is a paediatrician and PhD candidate at the Liggins Institute who is interested in the metabolic effect of Omega-3. He’s already found more than half of the fish-oil brands sold in New Zealand are “off” by the time we buy them, but 20% of women take fish oil supplements during pregnancy to boost their baby’s brain development. In this presentation, Ben explains how tests on rats have found higher newborn mortality rates and increased maternal insulin resistance in those fed oxidised fish oil.

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Can your gut bacteria set a blueprint for diabetes?


Thilini Vidanelage

PhD candidate
Liggins Institute

The gut microbiome has been getting a lot of attention recently for its potential to influence the development of obesity and Type 2 diabetes. This is particularly apparent in preterm children who are more likely to become obese or to develop diabetes and heart disease in later life. In this fascinating presentation, PhD candidate Thilini Maddegoda Vidanelage will explain how the microbiome differs in pre and full-term babies, and why this affects insulin resistance.

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How can we improve life for kids with cerebral palsy?


Dr Silmara Gusso

Senior Research Fellow
Liggins Institute

Cerebral palsy is the most common cause of physical disability in childhood, yet treatments to relieve the effects are limited. Cerebral palsy affects movement control which over the years impacts muscle and bone health. However, in a unique trial at the Liggins Institute’s Clinical Research Unit, research fellow Dr Silmara Gusso discovered huge improvements in children with cerebral palsy who used a vibration plate for just a few minutes a day. In this presentation she explains how the clinical trial worked and some of the biggest breakthroughs for participants.

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How does a genome’s structure affect your chance of developing disease?


Dr Justin O'Sullivan

Senior Research Fellow
Liggins Institute

Based at the Liggins Institute, molecular biologist Dr O’Sullivan is an expert in epigenetics and how the structure of a genome can influence long-term health outcomes. In this easy to understand presentation Dr O’Sullivan demonstrates how DNA is wrapped and folded in our cells, and explains how this ‘packaging’ modifies the personal DNA sequence that contributes to your growth and learning, and your chances of developing diseases like obesity and diabetes.

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What factors affect stress hormones in breast milk?


Shikha Pundir

PhD student, Liggins Institute

Liggins Institute PhD student Shikha Pundir is exploring the mysteries of human breast milk. She is investigating the impact of different environmental, social and biological factors on stress hormones in human milk. In this fascinating presentation she explains which factors have the biggest influence the composition of milk and how this could affect the health of breastfed babies.

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Can Viagra improve a baby’s growth during pregnancy?


Dr Charlotte Oyston

PhD student, Liggins Institute

Dr Charlotte Oyston works in the field of perinatal medicine and the focus of her PhD at the Liggins Institute is on fetal growth during pregnancy. Babies born small are at an increased risk of serious health complications - including death - but there are currently no treatments to improve a baby’s growth during pregnancy. In this presentation Dr Oyston explains how Viagra could be used to improve fetal growth and the next steps for this ground-breaking study.

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How can we improve health outcomes for vulnerable babies?


Distinguished Professor Jane Harding

Liggins Institute

Distinguished Professor Jane Harding is a specialist in fetal and neonatal care and her research focuses on the factors that regulate growth before and after birth, and the long-term consequences of treatments given at birth. She is particularly interested in the treatment of low blood sugars in newborn babies. In this presentation she explains how research at the Liggins Institute is changing the way mothers and babies are cared for in New Zealand and around the world.

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