Associate Professor Stella Valenzuela

Stella-Valenzuela

Associate Head of School (Research), School of Life Sciences
Core Member, CHT – Centre for Health Technologies
BSc (UNSW), Grad Dip Sci, PhD (UNSW)

A/Prof Stella Valenzuela undertook her PhD studies [identifying novel genes – CLIC1 and MIC-1 – from activated macrophage cells] at the Centre for Immunology (CFI), St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, obtaining her PhD from the University of NSW in 1998. Prior to this she had worked in the commercial sector, in the biotechnology companies Australian Monoclonal Development Pty Ltd and Cellabs Pty Ltd in research and development of monoclonal antibody technologies for research and diagnostic purposes. Following her PhD studies she was a Research Scientist at the CFI [functional studies of intracellular ion channel proteins – CLICs], later moving to the University of NSW to take up a position as an NHMRC Research Fellow [knockout mouse studies of S100 inflammatory proteins].

In June 2001 she joined the University of Technology, Key Centre for Health Technologies [cellular responses to mobile phone frequencies]. She then took up an academic position at UTS in 2004. She is currently the Associate Head of School (Research) in the School of Life Sciences, UTS.

A/Prof Valenzuela is a member of both the Centre for Health Technologies and the Institute of Nanoscale Technologies, UTS. She has been instrumental in establishing Bionanotechnology research at UTS and is currently working with her industry partner – Surgical Diagnostics Pty Ltd – developing devices that use on ion channel proteins.

Professional

Australian Society for Biophysics: 2005 to present

Australian Research Council Nanotechnology Network (ARCNN): 2007 to present

Associate Head of School (Research), School of Life Sciences
Core Member, CHT – Centre for Health Technologies
BSc (UNSW), Grad Dip Sci, PhD (UNSW)

Phone

+61 2 9514 1917

ORCID

Research Interests

A/Prof Stella Valenzuela was awarded her PhD in 1998, and has extensive research experience in the field of macrophage cell biology, ion channels and membrane-associated proteins. She was the first to identify and characterise the protein NCC27 (now referred to as CLIC1) following the screening of a subtraction cDNA library for novel genes involved in macrophage activation. Her work demonstrated that CLIC1 was a novel nuclear chloride ion channel protein, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry (1997). Her project also resulted in identification of a novel cytokine, MIC-1, published in PNAS, 1997. Since then she has demonstrated that CLIC1 was ubiquitously expressed in humans and involved in regulation of the cell cycle (J Physiol, 2000). This was followed by determination of the crystal structure of the soluble form of CLIC1 at 1.4 Å resolution, lead by Prof Paul Curmi (JBC, 2001).

Most recently, her research team have demonstrated for the first time that members of the CLIC family have enzymatic activity, in addition to being ion channels (PLOS ONE 2015). Her group are also leading studies into the regulation of CLIC proteins by sterols. This work is applying tethered membrane technologies in collaboration with her industry partner, Surgical Diagnostics P/L along with neutron and X-ray reflectometry studies in collaboration with Dr Holt, at the BRAGG Institute, ANSTO.

A/Prof Valenzuela’s is also collaborating with Prof Peter Ralph (C3 Institute, UTS) exploring the use of algal systems for large scale recombinant protein production.

A/Prof Valenzuela is now recognized as one of the University’s leading Nanobiotechnology researchers. Her work has potential application in the treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases by targeting and regulating macrophage cells with gold nanoparticles. Working with Professor Cortie from the Institute of Nanoscale Technologies at UTS, they  successfully demonstrated the first selective targeting and killing of disease-causing protozoans by photothermal treatment with antibody conjugated gold nanoparticles. Her more recent work with Dr Hui Chen has demonstrated a role for gold nanoparticles in the regulation of obesity and metabolic disorders (PLOS ONE, 2013).