Denuja Karunakaran, PhD – Women in Pathology

Denuja Karunakaran, PhD is a Team Leader/IMB Fellow at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, The University of Queensland. Her research program focuses on how inflammatory and cell death pathways drive low-grade chronic inflammatory diseases such as atherosclerosis, obesity and diabetes. Her interests include understanding how fat tissue inflammation drives obesity and other fatal diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Dr. Karunakaran obtained a PhD in platelet biology from Monash University prior to undertaking the prestigious Australian National Heart Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. Here, she investigated the mechanisms by which PKC regulates Apolipoprotein E secretion from human macrophages – a process thought to be athero-protective. She then pursued an Endowed Cardiovascular Genetics Postdoctoral Fellowship at The University of Ottawa Heart Institute, where she studied the role of miR-33 in macrophage mitochondrial respiration and cholesterol efflux pathways in atherosclerosis and obesity (Circ Res 2015, FWCI:5.55; ATVB 2015, FWCI: 2.98; Nat Immunol 2016, FWCI:7.39). Further, she defined the role of necroptosis, a newly defined cell death pathway involving RIPK1, RIPK3 and MLKL, in atherosclerosis, and how this pathway could be targeted for both therapeutic and diagnostic applications (Sci Adv 2016, FWCI:2.89). As an Associate Scientist, she developed her independent research program focusing on how RIPK1-mediated inflammation drives atherosclerosis and obesity. In recognition of her scientific contributions, she was awarded the ATVB Early Career Investigator Award finalist from the American Heart Foundation, both ASIP Experimental Pathologist-in-Training Award and Young Scientist Leadership Award from American Society for Investigative Pathology and more recently, ASMR Queensland Mid-career Researcher Award Finalist from the Australian Society for Medical Research. She’s also an invited early career member of the ATVB Editorial Board.

She is very passionate about mentoring young scientists, especially Women in STEM. To share her and others’ experiences and advice to succeed in STEM, she has created a twitter platform #positive_mentor (via @denujak), , and she is happy for anyone to reach out to her anytime!

Targeting Obesity with Denuja Karunakaran – BioTechniques

BioTechniques Editor Jenny Straiton caught up with Denuja Karunakaran to discuss her entry to the 2020 Queensland Women in STEM award, her research into the genetics of obesity and the challenges she has faced, and overcome, as a woman in STEM.

Trimming the Fat: Targeting novel genetic factors and molecules that drive obesity

Obesity rates are soaring at alarming rates world-wide, with at least ~66% of Queenslanders being overweight or obese. Rural Queensland is particularly affected, where 83% of people in Mackay and 75% in both Clermont and Richmond are overweight or obese.