Toxins from snakes, spiders, jellyfish and scorpions are helping scientists to better understand how pain works, with the hope of managing chronic pain more effectively.
Pain comes in many forms, requiring different treatments and often making it difficult to manage. Many painkillers have negative side effects including addiction, and for some the painkillers don’t even work.
“Many drugs achieve around 50 per cent pain relief in only one-third of patients. That’s not good enough,” says Dr Irina Vetter, Deputy Director of the Institute for Molecular Bioscience’s Centre for Pain Research at The University of Queensland.
Relief isn’t a term commonly associated with spiders, but Glenn King has found promising molecules in tarantula venom that he hopes will bring respite to the one in five Australian adults suffering from chronic pain.
“Trait-based ecology” enables Macquarie University’s Mark Westoby to explain patterns of species occurrence and abundance and to understand the impacts of climate change and changing patterns of land use. He received the $55,000 NSW Scientist of the Year.
Nanocapsules for drugs delivery: Frank Caruso is making miniature capsules that could better deliver drugs for cancer, AIDS and cardiovascular diseases. He won one of the 2014 Victoria Prizes for Science & Innovation worth $50,000.
Harry Messel has been a powerful force in science education—from the Physics Foundation to textbooks and his establishment of International Science Schools. He was awarded the Academy Medal.
Simon McKeon is a prominent business leader and philanthropist who has made extensive contributions to Australian science and innovation including chairing the CSIRO Board and the agenda-setting McKeon report into medical research in Australia. He was awarded the Academy Medal.
The life and death of cells: Jerry Adams has advanced understanding of cancer development, particularly of genes activated by chromosome translocation in lymphomas. By clarifying how the Bcl-2 protein family controls the life and death of cells, he and his colleagues at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research have galvanised the development of a promising new class of anti-cancer drugs. Jerry was awarded the 2014 Macfarlane Burnet Medal. Continue reading Australian Academy of Science medals→
Natural phenols, such as those found in chocolate, and minerals such as iron are being used to develop fast, economical drug-delivery capsules.
Frank Caruso and his team at The University of Melbourne are making nano-sized capsules that will encase vaccines and protect them from being broken down when entering the body. They believe that this delivery system will be biologically friendly and overcome a major challenge for medical materials: their compatibility with living systems.
One of the challenges of treating diseases such as cancer and HIV is delivering treatment with minimal damage to healthy areas.
An edible plant seed could deliver your insulin or cancer drugs if David Craik’s research progresses as hoped. His team’s work at The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience centres on cyclotides, which are a family of exceptionally stable circular proteins that occur naturally in many plants, such as violets and petunia.
Inspired by the stability and diversity of natural cyclotides, David’s team has developed a way to join the two ends of a linear protein, allowing them to create ‘designer’ cyclotides that can be incorporated into crop plants, turning them into production factories for therapeutic drugs and insecticides.