Tag Archives: immune system

Immune boost for cancer patients with HIV

Cancer is the leading cause of death among people with HIV and yet cancer treatment can be risky as their immune system is already compromised.

Now, a new class of drugs developed at the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales is providing hope—demonstrating it is effective in treating the cancer and strengthening the immune response to that cancer.

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Fresh Science

Fresh Science helps Australian early-career researchers find their story and their voice.

Over the past 20 years Fresh Science has trained and empowered more than 500 future leaders in science to engage with the community, media, government and industry.

In 2016, we chose 60 researchers around the country, trained them, and gave them the chance to present their science in pubs, school talks and to the media. Here are a few of their stories.

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Boosting vaccine performance

Vaccines work best when they include an adjuvant, something that boosts your immune system’s reaction to the vaccine.

University of Melbourne researchers have recreated a fragment of a bacteria protein that activates white blood cells.

In 2012, they signed a research agreement with Bio Farma to help them turn their idea into a novel vaccine platform that could enhance vaccines for hepatitis, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, and other diseases.

White cell assassins prove kiss of death for cancer

White blood cells have proven to be the serial assassins of the immune system, moving quickly on to their next target once they’re released from a dying cancer cell’s grip.

Misty Jenkins. Credit: L’Oréal Australia/sdpmedia.com.au

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Axolotls out on limb for future human hope

An axolotl’s ability to regrow limbs and repair brain and heart tissue could shed light on how humans might one day do the same, after Melbourne scientists discovered the key role played by macrophages, immune system cells, in the animal’s regenerative process.

Axolotls are known for their ability to regrow limbs.

James Godwin and his colleagues at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI) have identified the critical role of macrophages in axolotl tissue regeneration, raising the hope of future treatments for human spinal cord and brain injuries, as well as heart and liver disease.

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Vitamin B reveals the role of mystery gut immune cells

An accidental discovery by Melbourne researchers has revealed the purpose of ‘mystery’ immune cells in the gut, shown how our immune system interacts with the complex bacteria ecology found there, and opened new paths for drug discovery.

T cell activation by transitory antigens. Credit: Jeffrey Mak, University of Queensland

Our guts, lungs and mouths are lined with mysterious immune cells that make up to 10 per cent of the T cells in our immune system. These immune cells, known as mucosal-associated invariant T cells (MAITs), detect reactive intermediates in the synthesis of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) that is made by many invasive bacteria and fungi.

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Crystallising a career in immunology

As a child, Natalie Borg tried to grow crystals. Two decades on, she is still growing crystals. But now she is analysing them with synchrotron light, to figure out how our bodies mount a rapid defence when we are attacked by viruses.

Natalie Borg at work in the lab. Photo credit: L’Oréal/SDP Photo
Natalie Borg at work in the lab. Photo credit: L’Oréal/SDP Photo

“The immune system is complex and is made up of many specialised types of cells and proteins. The key is to understand their function,” Natalie says.

To date, she’s been working as part of a successful team at Monash University. In 2007 her work on how our natural killer T cells recognise fats from invaders was published in Nature.

Now she’s setting up her own laboratory at Monash—a bold move but essential if her career is to grow. With the help of her L’Oréal Australia For Women in Science Fellowship, she will study key steps in our body’s early warning system against viral attack.

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Unravelling the immune system

Erika Cretney is fascinated by the human immune system. “As we find out more about how it works, it seems to grow in complexity,” she says. “I’m not sure that we’ll ever know everything about it.”

Erika Cretney at work in the lab Photo, credit: L’Oréal/SDP Photo
Erika Cretney at work in the lab Photo, credit: L’Oréal/SDP Photo

Her interest lies in ferreting out the function of genes, proteins and cell types in the immune system, and identifying the roles they play. And with the help of her L’Oréal Australia For Women in Science Fellowship, she is pursuing a new target: a small group of T cells that play a role in controlling inflammation and auto-immune diseases.

The Fellowship will give her the freedom to promote her new field of study at international conferences and it will help with childcare costs as she balances a full-time research career with the needs of her young son. Continue reading Unravelling the immune system