Physicist Dr Amanda Barnard has been using supercomputers to find the balance between sun protection and potential toxicity in a new generation of sunscreens which employ nanoparticles.
The metal oxide nanoparticles which block solar radiation are so small they cannot be seen, so the sunscreen appears transparent. But if the particles are too small, they can produce toxic levels of free radicals.
Amanda, who heads CSIRO’s Virtual Nanoscience Laboratory, has been able to come up with a trade-off—the optimum size of particle to provide maximum UV protection for minimal toxicity while maintaining transparency—by modelling the relevant interactions on a supercomputer. Continue reading Saving our skins→
Dr Benjamin Kile of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research in Melbourne has found why the blood cells responsible for clotting—platelets—have a short shelf life at the blood bank.
There’s a molecular clock ticking away inside them that triggers their death. He’s also discovered a gene critical for the production of blood stem cells in our bone marrow that happens to be responsible for a range of cancers.
These major discoveries earned Ben the 2010 Science Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year. Now he is trying to use them to extend the life of blood bank products, and get to the heart of some of the big questions in cancer. Continue reading The life and death of blood cells→
What began decades ago as the discovery of an antibody from mice that targets human cancer cells is now undergoing human trials in the US as the basis of a treatment for acute leukaemia.
The antibody targets a protein called EphA3, which is found in about half of all acute leukaemias as well as many other human cancers including a significant proportion of malignant melanomas, brain tumours and lung cancers. The antibody, called KB004, has been shown to kill certain types of cancerous tumours grown from human samples. Continue reading Life’s work closer to saving lives→
An Australian invention is making it cheaper, quicker and safer to manufacture the radioactive tracers used in latest medical imaging techniques to track down increasingly smaller clusters of cancer cells.
Like preparing a cake in a mixing bowl, the chemical reactions to make the tracers involve putting the ingredients together in the right proportions. The next generation of tracers can have a more complex recipe—and so can be more difficult to produce using just one ‘mixing bowl’ at a time. Continue reading Two steps forward for cancer detection→
There’s a new diagnostic tool being developed to target melanoma, the deadly form of skin cancer with which more than 10,000 Australians are diagnosed each year.
It’s a chemical compound designed to highlight small traces of these cancer cells in the body.
Melanoma occurs when the cells that make melanin, the dark pigment normally found in the skin, become cancerous. Melanoma cells often spread elsewhere in the body before the primary tumours are detected and removed surgically. Clusters of these melanoma cells can be hard to detect before they grow into tumours by which time they are often incurable. Continue reading Unmasking melanoma early→
Imagine printing your own room lighting, lasers, or solar cells from inks you buy at the local newsagent. Jacek Jasieniak and colleagues at CSIRO, the University of Melbourne and the University of Padua in Italy, have developed liquid inks based on quantum dots that can be used to print such devices and in the first demonstration of their technology have produced tiny lasers. Quantum dots are made of semiconductor material grown as nanometre-sized crystals, around a millionth of a millimetre in diameter. The laser colour they produce can be selectively tuned by varying their size.
High tech cling wraps that ‘sieve out’ carbon dioxide from waste gases can help save the world, says Melbourne University chemical engineer, Colin Scholes who developed the technology. The membranes can be fitted to existing chimneys where they capture CO2 for removal and storage. Not only are the new membranes efficient, they are also relatively cheap to produce. They are already being tested on brown coal power stations in Victoria’s La Trobe Valley, Colin says. “We are hoping these membranes will cut emissions from power stations by up to 90 per cent.”
Queensland researchers believe future cancer drugs could be grown in sunflowers and ultimately delivered as a seed ‘pill’.
They’re a long way from that outcome. But, as they reported to the XVIII International Botanical Congress in Melbourne earlier this year, they have already shown that sunflowers make a precursor to cancer drugs as part of their defence against insect attack.
Blood tests using nanoparticles carrying molecules which can detect breast cancer biomarkers could save millions of lives and open the way to mass screening for many cancers.
Prof. Matt Trau, of the Australian Institute for Bioengineering & Nanotechnology at the University of Queensland, and his team are using a combination of nanotechnology and molecular biology in the project, funded by a five-year $5 million grant from the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
Researchers in Melbourne will trial a new procedure to reconstruct breasts in patients following mastectomy. The procedure will use the women’s own stem cells instead of silicon.
Focusing on the treatment and recovery of women with breast cancer, the new technique known as Neopec involves the insertion of a customised biodegradable chamber which is contoured to match the woman’s natural breast shape. The chamber acts as a scaffold within which the woman’s own stem cells are used to grow permanent breast fat tissue.