Dr Yuen Ting Lam has been awarded the Appco Young Achiever Award for her ground-breaking work on the role of male sex hormones, known as androgens, in the promotion of new blood vessel formation. This ability to form new blood vessels, known as angiogenesis, is vital for recovery from heart disease.
Recently published in the scientific journal Molecular Endocrinology, her work focuses on how ageing affects the way androgens promote angiogenesis. “There is a progressive decline in androgen levels as people age,” Yuen explains. “There is also a clinically observed association between low androgen levels and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease,” says Yuen.
Yuen’s work demonstrates for the first time that ageing cells become less responsive to androgens. Her findings show that the androgen receptor is unable to move into the nucleus of the cell, and consequently androgens cannot enhance the generation of new blood vessels after injury or disease.
Clinically, these findings suggest that androgen replacement may be less effective in promoting new blood vessel formation after heart attack in older people than expected.
Yuen began her career as a science undergraduate at the University of New South Wales, majoring in Biotechnology. Following her passion for science, Yuen then went on to complete her doctorate in cellular aging, again with the University of New South Wales.
Four years ago, Yuen joined the Translational Research Group at the HRI as a post-doctoral fellow. “I wanted to make a more direct contribution to the field of medical science,” Yuen explains. “I love exploring endless possibilities and the satisfaction that comes from solving questions,” says Yuen.
Earlier this year, Yuen was awarded a highly coveted Early Career Research Grant from the University of Sydney. “I really appreciate the Appco Young Achiever Award. It has advanced my track record and helped to secure this major grant to continue my work,” Yuen says.
The Appco Young Achiever Award, in combination with the Early Career Research Grant, open exciting possibilities for her research. “Together, the awards will enable me to do animal-based experiments, looking at how androgen treatment in older animals may augment new blood vessel formation following an ischaemic injury,” Yuen says.
In the future, Yuen’s hopes her findings translate into more effective androgen treatments for older people to help both prevent and treat cardiovascular disease.
When not in the lab, Yuen enjoys watching Sci-Fi and futuristic movies and dreaming of a better future.