Penny Whiley wins first place in 3-Minute Thesis Faculty Final

Hudson Institute

Hudson Institute PhD candidate, Penny Whiley, has won the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences Three Minute Thesis Competition for her presentation explaining how her research into a very ‘importin’ protein called Importin 5 (IPO5) will identify processes that are essential for male fertility.

Penny Whiley from the Testis Development and Male Germ Cell Biology Research Group at Hudson Institute
Penny Whiley

Penny won the Faculty final with her presentation, ‘Very ‘Importin’ Proteins make Very Important People!’, after placing first in the senior category of the School of Clinical Sciences competition. She will now represent the Faculty as a finalist at the Monash University 3MT Final on Wednesday, 25 August 2021 (TBC). This winner will progress to the Asia-Pacific 3MT Competition.

Penny is undertaking his PhD in the Testis Development and Male Germ Cell Biology Research group within the Centre for Reproductive Health.

About Penny’s research

Male infertility is becoming increasingly common, and unfortunately in Australia 1 in 100 men don’t produce any sperm at all, a medical condition called ‘azoospermia’. “Our lab discovered that deletion of IPO5 in the cells that are precursors to sperm causes male sterility in mice, which is identical to that seen in men with azoospermia. This suggests that IPO5 is vital for sperm production” Penny says.

In her talk, Penny cleverly describes how the IPO5 protein acts like a truck and transports a very specific set of cargo from the cytoplasm of a cell and delivers it into the nucleus where it’s put to work. As part of her PhD, Penny is using an antibody to capture the IPO5 protein and its cargo in the germ cells and will use a mass spectrometer to identify what each of these important cargo proteins are.

How can this research improve male reproductive health?

Penny explains “Our research will identify the proteins that are critical for sperm development. This project will help us understand how and why conditions like azoospermia exist and ultimately provide avenues for developing new therapies so families can keep making their very own VIPs.”

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