Heart attacks, cancers, mental disorders, diabetes, and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are on the rise in Indonesia and Australia. In 2007 they caused 60 per cent of Indonesian deaths; by 2014 this had risen to more than 70 per cent.
NCDs also account for over 90 per cent of Australian deaths. More than half the country’s adults are considered overweight or obese and a 2014 study found Australia’s obesity rate was rising faster than anywhere else in the world.
More than 1.2 million Australians have an autoimmune disease. But any two people may experience it very differently, even if their disease has the same name.
Unlike infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases are not passed from person to person. They are our bodies fighting themselves, making every person’s disease unique.
“A lot of clinical trials fail as they treat all patients with a certain ‘disease’ as one big group,” says Professor Carola Vinuesa, from the National Health and Medical Research Council Centre for Research Excellence in Personalised Immunology at The Australian National University.
Research on the effects of the popular joint supplement glucosamine has raised fears for women’s fertility, and a knee-jerk reaction from the vitamin industry, as Adelaide scientists reveal its threat to conception.
An obese father increases the risk of his children and grandchildren becoming obese, even if they follow a healthy diet. That’s the implication of a series of mouse studies conducted at the University of Adelaide.
The researchers found that a father’s high-fat diet could change the molecular make-up of his sperm, leading to obesity and diabetes-like symptoms in two generations of offspring.
“With obese fathers, changes in the sperm’s microRNA molecules are linked with programming the embryo for obesity or metabolic disease later in life,” says Tod Fullston, the study’s lead author and an NHMRC Peter Doherty Fellow with the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Research Institute.
Unhealthy cells are less “squishy” than their healthy counterparts. That difference is used by a small device developed by engineers at Monash University to test living blood cells for diseases, such as malaria and diabetes. The device can then sort the cells for future culturing and experimentation without harming them.
The patented “lab-on-a-chip” and accompanying control system has attracted considerable interest from pharmaceutical companies, according to co-inventor Dr Greg Sheard of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Continue reading Health check for live cells→
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.”
On Mondays, Jenny Gunton sees diabetes patients at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital. And from Tuesday to Friday, she heads up a diabetes research laboratory at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. She’s also the mother of two-and-a-half-year-old “Action Boy”.
Gunton is one of a growing band of physician-scientists. “It’s not a financially sensible decision, but I enjoy it,” says Gunton. “It’s also a better way for me to ask questions and attempt to answer them. And in that way, I help my patients.”
And now, with the help of her L’ORÉAL Australia For Women In Science Fellowship she will be exploring the link between Vitamin D and diabetes.