Dr Naomi Lee
School of Medicine and Public Health
Keeping men healthier
Keeping men healthier for longer will not only improve the quality of life for men as they age, but also save healthcare providers billions of dollars.
Leading the way for reproductive and male health research is Professor Lee Smith who joined the University of Newcastle in 2017 as Pro Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Science after more than a decade at the University of Edinburgh.
Professor Smith, who has an impressive record as an international research innovator in reproductive genetics and endocrinology, is leading a team of University of Newcastle researchers working to understand how testosterone is produced by the body and how it works to promote all aspects of male health.
Testis control of androgen production
“Testosterone is well known for its role in male development, puberty and male fertility, but recent research has identified a much wider range of roles that combine to promote male health.
“Low testosterone is associated with chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease, and age-related conditions such as frailty, osteoporosis, and muscle-wasting. It has also been linked to an increased risk of early death.
“Testosterone replacement therapy can provide significant benefits to men with low testosterone. Our team is working to leverage this knowledge to develop novel therapies to keep men healthier for longer,” Professor Smith said.
With obesity, ill-health and poor lifestyle habits prevalent in today’s society, Professor Smith hopes that by understanding the complexity of testosterone and cell systems, he’ll be able to develop clinical therapies to help reduce these health issues in men.
“95 per cent of testosterone in men is produced by a single type of cell present only inside the testes – the Leydig cells. Our research focusses on understanding how these cells work, and in particular, how genes and hormones control the production of testosterone by these cells.
“We are working to understand the many cell-types, genes and hormones interacting to both positively and negatively regulate testosterone production, and a myriad of different responses to testosterone levels throughout the body.
“Our novel and unique transgenic approaches are accelerating our understanding towards clinical therapies.
“We can activate or deactivate specific genes inside individual cell-types, track cells throughout development, or remove part or all of an individual cell-type complete. This is advancing the development of viral gene therapy technologies which deliver new genes to repair damage to the system.
“Our fundamental goal is to understand this system sufficiently to support the development of new therapeutic options for men affected by the multitude of widespread chronic conditions,” he said.
Making new discoveries
With a goal of helping improves lives through his research, Professor Smith is working towards a single treatment approach which will promote long-term health.
“The possibility that a single injection by a GP can improve a man’s health for many years is exciting.
“Our work is taking the most fundamental understanding of knowledge at a genetic and molecular level and turning this into therapies that have the potential to impact millions of lives.
“This knowledge has application in areas such as male development, testis and prostate cancer, male fertility, and chronic clinical conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
“Our research goals focus on the future management of healthy ageing in men. Keeping men healthier for longer will not only improve the quality of life for men as they age, but also provide billions of dollars of savings for healthcare providers that can be invested where needed,” he said.
Professor Smith is still driven to make new discoveries – excited for what is next to come.
“Discovery is the most exciting aspect of research. I have on many occasions been fortunate enough – for a brief period of time – to be the only person ever to know that the world works in a certain way. That never gets old!”
Making great spaces and places
Putting the needs of end-users above all else, Dr Juhyun Lee is seeking to ensure designs for the built environment are coherent, clear and shareable.
Cities are fascinating. Young and old, contemporary and heritage-listed, rich and poor, breathtakingly beautiful and unattractively bleak, they are all a result of human action, shrewdly embodying local, national and global flows in politics, the economy and society. Tightly knotted and testifying to the intersections of public policy, art and urban governance, each is representative of transformation too. Dr Juhyun Lee, an authority on architectural planning, is untangling their multiple, multilayered and interdependent influences through his research.
“I’m advancing contextual design,” he elaborates.
“It was introduced in the late 1990s and works on the proviso that being knowledgeable about users – their fundamental intents, desires and drivers – will lead to better final products.”
“The process can be more widely applied to provide a formal understanding of designers’ decisions in the field as well.”
“Our aim is to figure out why and how they did what they did, and predict if, why and how they’ll do the same again.”
Passionate and pioneering, Juhyun is also making significant contributions to three other related areas, including design cognition, design analysis and architectural/design computing.
“The former refers to the study of human information processing in design using different theoretical and empirical models,” he explains.
“The second and third refer to physical, real-world surroundings in which some elements are supplemented by digital sensory input and computing, such as sound, video, graphics or contextual data.”
Helping out at home
Juhyun’s research career began in 2006, when he undertook a PhD in Housing and Interior Design at Yonsei University in his native South Korea. Chiefly focused on merging physical and virtual design factors into an embodied environment, the four-year probe sought to craft and propose consensual strategic planning schemes for mixed-use development to support urban regeneration in Seoul.
“These were based on a literature review and questionnaire survey data,” the bilinguist recalls.
“The formal framework consists of four methodological stages – database development, categorisation, factor analysis and correlation.”
“It serves as a viable reference for policymakers and developers.”
Relocating to the Centre for Human Ecology at Kyunghee University after receiving his award in 2010, Juhyun looked to take the reins on another research assignment – this time on an “augmented reality-based design system.”
“This work stemmed from our realisation of the potential of smart phones to deliver powerful networking and mobility,” he shares.
“These devices have similarly opened up opportunities to expand mixed reality (MR), which commonly overlaps computer-generated images and real images in the physical world.”
“We approached the managers of several leading MR companies in South Korea and asked them about their MR applications, such as iNeedCoffee and Ovjet, which overcame the limitations of time and place to communicate with mobile users through the location of their favourites.”
“We also introduced the concept of context immersion, which suggests the experience of owning and operating a smart phone does not have to be confined to the phone’s small display screen.”
“Instead, smart phones can allow people to be nomadic and autonomous and connect with many others simultaneously.”
A new home
Invited to the University of Newcastle as a visiting academic in early 2011, Juhyun was appointed to a full-time research position in 2012. Hitting the ground running, the senior lecturer set up a sensory design laboratory within the Centre for Interdisciplinary Built Environment Research in 2013, and collaborated with Professor Michael Ostwald on a grammatical and syntactical study of architecture in the Hunter in 2014.
“We wanted to give both practicing professionals and our undergraduate students an insight into the discipline,” he comments.
“The objective was to show them different ways of producing and assessing design variations in a number of contexts.”
From 2014 Juhyun has invested in a project entitled ‘Multicultural design communication in architectural design’ as well.
Awarded an Innovation Grant from the Office of Teaching and Learning in 2016, Juhyun reveals that he “will be developing pedagogical solutions to the linguistic and cultural barriers in design education.”
“I will undertake the first inquiry into the relationship between language and design cognition too.”
“My overarching goal is to support efficient and sustainable interactions between people in design teams, particularly those in the Asia Pacific region.”