Dr Vivian Kahl

Children's Medical Research Insistute

Vivian is a research officer at the Children’s Medical Research Institute in Sydney. She has been interested in molecular biology since she was a teenager in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

Telomeres are tiny segments of DNA that cap the ends of human chromosomes. Their length is an indication of the health of cells, and short telomeres are associated with an increased risk of age-related diseases, including cancer. Moreover, there is growing evidence that lifestyle factors can influence telomere length.

Vivian is currently developing a new technique known as Telomere Fiber-FISH (TFF) to measure telomere lengths and what affects them, particularly in cancer cells. She aims to validate TFF in a panel of cancer cells to help provide a screening platform for new cancer therapies. The work has significant promise for prediction, diagnosis and treatment.

In her PhD, completed in early 2018, she studied workers exposed to pesticides and nicotine in tobacco fields, evaluating biomarkers including the length of telomeres. The higher incidence of bladder and lung cancer was associated with the shortest telomere lengths. Her efforts promoted growing awareness of the need to provide protective equipment for workers, and increased the tobacco industry’s awareness of their responsibility for farmers’ health.