karmellapic-461Malaghan Institute researcher Karmella Naidoo’s fascination with the immune system led her on a path to a PhD on eczema. Karmella received a grant of $20,000 from the Nikau Foundation in December last year to enable her to do her PhD. She has just finished her first year of the study with the help of the grant.

“I am very grateful to the Nikau Foundation. It costs a lot of money to design experiments and do the testing. The equipment we use too is very expensive. We rely a lot on funding in science.”

Karmella (left) came to New Zealand after doing an undergraduate degree in South Africa and fell in love with the country. With her degree in bio-medical science she had no trouble getting work in hospitals and she then decided to study further at Victoria University. She was hired by Malaghan as a research officer and was asked if she would like to do her PhD. “I developed a fascination with the immune system – it is very intricate.” One in five children in NZ are affected by eczema.

The research for her PhD entitled Arresting the allergic march:  Investigating the inflammatory markers of allergic skin inflammation, will involve investigating the immune cells that drive allergic skin inflammation and by so doing it is hoped that specific targets for the treatment and prevention of eczema can be identified.

Allergic reactions are an over-response of the immune system to a normally harmless substance. Usually eczema is treated with steroids but this dampens down the entire immune system, she says. Karmella says it is not known why eczema can progress to asthma and food allergies later in life. By stopping the eczema, it may be that the so-called allergic march could also be halted.

The Malaghan Institute also featured recently on Campbell Live in a story about cancer research. See this in the link here.