Prize for best honours research dissertation

The Pitt lab would like to congratulate Lara Beaumont on receiving the Dean of Medicine prize and the Professor Andrew C. Riches prize for the best lab based honours research project.

Lara was a recipient of the Wolfson Foundation Intercalated degree award when she joined our group to investigate how zinc regulates calcium release in heart failure. It was a real pleasure to have Lara in the lab and we wish her every success for the future.



Chrysalis- An artistic interpretation of pursuing scientific research

Dr Pitt took part in the Chrysalis project; an artistic interpretation of pursuing scientific research. This project was funded by the Biochemical Society Diversity in Science Fund and the Wellcome Trust’s Institutional Strategic Support Fund.

Sophie KnightProfessional local artist Sophie McKay Knight met both young and established female researchers at the University of St Andrews to examine how creativity and imagination are required, as well as integrity and precision when pursuing scientific research. Sophie visited our lab to find out about the day-to-day life of a scientist and to learn more about our current research. The conversations the group had with Sophie and some of current data were interpreted into artwork which formed part of an exhibition entitled Elements, 23 March – 30 April 2016 at the Byre Theatre, St Andrews.

EU COST Action Meeting (Zinc-Net): Dietary supplements vs food biofortification and the gut microbiome, Sofia, Bulgaria.

zinc-netDr Alan Stewart would like to thank the organisers (Profs. Nicky Lowe, Fernando Lidon and Radostina Alexandrova) of the EU COST Action Meeting (Zinc-Net TD1304) on dietary supplements vs food biofortification and the gut microbiome, which took place on the 22nd/23rd March 2016 in Sofia, Bulgaria. Dr Stewart presented his work relating to the interplay between fatty acids and plasma zinc status and the implications of this dynamic for zinc bioavailability. In addition, he acted as rapporteur (together with Dr José C. Ramalho, Universidade de Lisboa) for the third scientific session on “Zinc Biofortification”.

Biophysical Society Annual Meeting 2016

The Pitt lab attended the Biophysical Society 60th Annual Meeting, Los Angeles, Feb 27-March 2, 2016. Both Gavin Robertson and Benedict Reilly-O’Donnell presented their work. Gavin’s poster was entitled ‘Zinc modulates skeletal ryanodine receptor function resulting in altered sarcoplasmic reticulum calcium release’. Gavin is funded by the BHF. Ben presented a poster entitled ‘Diastolic calcium leak and the role of zinc’. Both Gavin and Ben received a travel award from the Physiological Society. Ben also received additional support from the British Society of Cell Biology. The conference was both helpful and informative and we look forward to presenting more data in the future.

Ben posterGavin poster

Is eye research the best kept secret?

In a recent article published in the RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) magazine Julian Jackson, a Senior Adviser at Fight for Sight, argues that scientists working in the field of vision research need to better communicate the work they do to eye health professionals, patients and the public. A link to the article can be found here.

To help to address this Fight for Sight have established a Speaker Network, made up of over 100 academic researchers, clinician scientists and clinicians offering a wide range of expertise and experience. The aim of the network is to target large annual conferences, AGM’s and key optical events as well as regional and local meetings to ensure maximum reach and penetration of the charity’s message about the critical importance of eye research.

Zinc-UK meeting, London, December 2015

Another fantastic Zinc-UK meeting!

The Pitt and Stewart labs attended the Zinc-UK meeting, London 2015 and would like to thank Dr Imre Lengyel and Dr Elisa Bellomo for putting together such an exciting programme.

Dr Samantha Pitt would like to thank the organisers for giving her the opportunity to talk about the lab’s latest research and gave a talk entitled “Zinc unmasks a new player in cardiac sarcoplasmic reticulum calcium leak”.

Well done to Ben and Gavin who both presented their work at this meeting. Ben gave an oral presentation entitled “The role of zinc in regulating intracellular calcium release” and Gavin presented a poster entitled “A novel role for Zn2+ in modulation of sarcoplasmic reticulum calcium release in skeletal muscle”.

The Pitt lab would like to thank the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the BHF for supporting this research.

Phospholipase C-η2 activity is required for neurite growth


Visualisation of PLCη2-LIMK1 interactions in Neuro2A cells within growting neurites using a proximity ligand assay.
Direct visualisation of PLCη2-LIMK1 interactions (red dots) in Neuro2A cells within growing neurites using a proximity ligand assay. Interactions can also be seen in the cell body and nucleus (stained blue).

Phosphatidylinositol (PhoIns)-specific phospholipase C enzymes (PLCs) are central to the inositol lipid signalling pathways and contribute to intracellular Ca2+ release and protein kinase C activation in mammalian neurons. Six distinct classes of PhoIns-specific PLCs are known to exist in mammals (β, γ, δ, ε, ζ, and η), all of which are activated by distinct membrane receptor-mediated events. The Stewart lab previously revealed that expression of the PLC isozyme, PLC-η2 is essential for neurite growth, a process central to normal neuronal differentiation. A new study from the lab has gone a step further and shown that active PLC-η2 is needed for neurite growth to occur. Furthermore, the study also revealed that PLC-η2 interacts directly with LIM Domain Kinase 1, a key cytoskeletal regulatory protein previously implicated in this process. The new findings are published in the journal, Histochemistry and Cell Biology. Full text is available here: DOI 10.1007/s00418-015-1390-7.

Alan Stewart Appointed to BBSRC Pool of Experts

Dr Alan Stewart has been appointed to the BBSRC Pool of Experts. The BBSRC is one of the 7 Research Councils that work together as Research Councils UK (RCUK). The BBSRC which funds world leading UK bioscience has an annual budget in excess of £500M. Pool members are appointed based upon an active involvement in high quality UK biological research, and are recruited from a range of scientific backgrounds to assist in the assessment of funding applications.