About us

The research goal of the Endocrinology & Metabolism Research Group is to understand how metabolism and body composition is regulated by hormones. Special focus is on establishing hormonal interactions in the regulation of metabolism and muscle mass, tissue-targeted hormone delivery for treatment of sarcopenia, and the use of resistance training and diabetes drugs to suppress cancer progression. We perform a wide range of body composition, energy expenditure, substrate utilization, physical capacity, muscle strength, and balance assessments. The focus is to establish a network of collaborative projects in UNSW and SESLHD in endocrine, metabolic and cancer research.

Current projects

  1. Regulation of myokine decorin secretion by growth hormone during exercise, a controlled clinical trial in patients with growth hormone (GH) deficiency and GH excess.
    Investigators: Navneeta Reddy, Mark McLean, Haleh Shahidipour, Sue Mei Lau, Jeanette Thom, Vita Birzniece.
  2. Investigating the effects of metformin on growth factors involved in prostate cancer progression in prostate cancer patients.
    Investigators: Teresa Lam, Mark McLean, Amy Hayden, Howard Gurney, Navneeta Reddy, Jan Frystyk, Vita Birzniece.
  3. Could changes in circulating maternal lipid species predict gestational diabetes and babies large for gestational age?
    Investigators: Melinda Lam, Melina Bagala, Constance Yap, Peter Meikle, Natalie Mellett, Glenn Stone, Wah Cheung, Sue Lynn Lau, Mark McLean, Vita Birzniece.


Opportunities are available for Honours, Masters or PhD candidates.


 Vita Birzniece

T:  +61-2-93850585
E:  v.birzniece@unsw.edu.au

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  • Dr Anne Poljak (UNSW Sydney)
  • Prof Richard Lindley (Blacktown Hospital)
  • Prof Howard Gurney, Dr Amy Hayden (Westmead and Blacktown Hospitals, NSW)
  • Prof Glenn Stone and Dr Birinder Cheema (WSU, NSW)
  • Prof Ken Ho (Garvan Institute); Prof Robert Baxter (University of Sydney)
  • Prof Jan Frystyk (Aarhus University, Denmark)
  • Prof Stephen Lord (NeuRa, UNSW Sydney)
  • Prof Bu Yeap (UWA, WA)
  • Ms Natalie Mellett and Prof Peter Meikle (Baker Heart & Diabetes Institute, VIC)
  • A/Prof Jeff Holst (UNSW Sydney)
  • Prof Jacqueline Close (NeuRA, POWH)
  • A/Prof Jeanette Thom (UNSW Sydney)
  • Dr Daina Sturnieks and Dr Yoshiro Okubo (NeuRA)
  • Dr Greg Smith (UNSW Sydney)
  • Dr Sue Mei Lau and Dr Barbara Depczynski (Department of Endocrinology, POWH)

Resources & tools

  • Lam T, Birzniece V, McLean M, Gurney H, Hayden A, Cheema BS. The Adverse Effects of Androgen Deprivation Therapy in Prostate Cancer and the Benefits and Potential Anti-oncogenic Mechanisms of Progressive Resistance Training. Sports Med Open 2020 Feb 13;6(1):13.
  • Lam T, McLean M, Hayden A, Poljak A, Cheema B, Gurney H, Stone G, Bahl N, Reddy N, Shahidipour H, Birzniece V. A potent liver-mediated mechanism for loss of muscle mass during androgen deprivation therapy. Endocr Connect. 2019 May 1;8(5):605-615. 
  • Birzniece V, McLean M, Reddy N, Ho KKY. Disparate Effect of Aromatization on the Central Regulation of GH Secretion by Estrogens in Men and Postmenopausal Women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2019 Jul 1;104(7):2978-2984.
  • Birzniece V. Exercise and the growth hormone-insulin-like growth factor axis. Current Opinion in Endocrine and Metabolic Research. Sole invited review. Volume 9, December 2019, Pages 1-7.
  • Bahl N, Stone G, McLean M, Ho KKY, Birzniece V. Decorin, a growth hormone regulated protein in humans. Eur J Endocrinol. 2018 Feb;178(2):147-154.
  • Birzniece V. Hepatic actions of androgens in the regulation of metabolism. Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes. 2018 Jun;25(3):201-208. Invited Review.
  • Tan SH, Lee A, Pascovici D, Care N, Birzniece V, Ho K, Molloy MP, Khan A. Plasma biomarker proteins for detection of human growth hormone administration in athletes. Sci Rep. 2017 Aug 30;7(1):10039. 
  • Birzniece V, Barrett PHR, Ho KKY. Tamoxifen reduces hepatic VLDL production and GH secretion in women: a possible mechanism for steatosis development. Eur J Endocrinol. 2017 Aug;177(2):137-143.
  • Lam T, Poljak A, McLean M, Bahl N, Ho KK, Birzniece V. Testosterone prevents protein loss via the hepatic urea cycle in human. Eur J Endocrinol. 2017 Apr;176(4):489-496.
  • Birzniece V, Ho KKY. Sex steroids and the GH axis: Implications for the management of hypopituitarism. Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2017 Feb;31(1):59-69. Invited Review.
  • Birzniece V, Ho KK. Estrogen receptor antagonism uncovers gender-dimorphic suppression of whole body fat oxidation in humans: differential effects of tamoxifen on the GH and gonadal axes. Eur J Endocrinol. 2015 Oct;173(4):479-87.
  • Lee P, Birzniece V, Umpleby AM, Poljak A, Ho KK. Formoterol, a highly β2-selective agonist, induces gender-dimorphic whole body leucine metabolism in humans. Metabolism. 2015 Apr;64(4):506-12. 
  • Birzniece V, Khaw CH, Nelson AE, Meinhardt U, Ho KK. A critical evaluation of bioimpedance spectroscopy analysis in estimating body composition during GH treatment: comparison with bromide dilution and dual X-ray absorptiometry. Eur J Endocrinol. 2015 Jan;172(1):21-8. 
  • Birzniece V. Doping in sport: effects, harm and misconceptions. Intern Med J. 2015 Mar;45(3):239-48. 
  • Birzniece V, Magnusson NE, Ho KK, Frystyk J. Effects of raloxifene and estrogen on bioactive IGF1 in GH-deficient women. Eur J Endocrinol. 2014 Feb 4;170(3):375-83
  • Birzniece V, Umpleby MA, Poljak A, Handelsman DJ, Ho KK. Oral low-dose testosterone administration induces whole-body protein anabolism in postmenopausal women: a novel liver-targeted therapy. Eur J Endocrinol. 2013 Jul 29;169(3):321-7.
  • Birzniece V. Gonadal steroids and body composition, strength, and sexual function in men. N Engl J Med. 2013 Dec 19;369(25):2455