Top physiology prize for Smith

19 September 2007 | Story by Helen Théron

Best oral: PhD student Jamie Smith (Exercise Science and Sports Medicine) won the Physiology Society of Southern Africa's Wyndham Prize.

PhD student in exercise science Jamie Smith has won the Wyndham Prize for the best oral presentation by a young researcher in physiological sciences.

It was awarded at the annual Physiology Society of Southern Africa Society (PSSA) meeting. The prize is named after renowned South African exercise and heat stress physiologist the late Professor Cyril Wyndham. The competition gives young researchers their first experience of presenting and defending their work before a 'supportive but competitive' international audience.

Smith's thesis explores the synthesis of the skeletal muscle glucose transport protein, GLUT4, in response to exercise.

"Exercise increases the abundance of the protein, which functions to transport glucose from the blood into skeletal muscle," he explained. "This improves glucose homeostasis and insulin sensitivity. We are studying this process at a molecular level because it may reveal targets for drugs to treat insulin resistance diseases such as Type II Diabetes."

Smith showed that a pathway involving calcium was able to target the GLUT4 gene and increase GLUT4 protein levels.

Besides Smith's certificate and a cash prize, he stands a chance of being sponsored to attend an International Union of Physiological Sciences conference.

He is supervised by the human biology department's Dr Edward Ojuka.

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