Tag Archives: immunology

Frog peptides versus superbugs

Neutrons and native frogs are an unlikely but dynamic duo in the battle against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, commonly known as superbugs, recent research has shown.

The growling grass frog’s skin secretions include disease fighting peptides. Credit: Craig Cleeland

The skin secretions of the Australian green-eyed and growling grass frogs contain peptides (small proteins) that help frogs fight infection. Researchers hope these peptides will offer a new line of defence against a range of human bacterial pathogens, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
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Starving cancer and other stories

Prostate cancers are made up of hungry, growing cells. Now we’ve discovered how to cut off their food supply thanks to a study published in Cancer Research and supported by Movember. More below. Also Australian science discoveries you may have missed from the past week. Heart cells growing in a test-tube – Melbourne How birds [...]

How a molecular assassin operates

The secrets of a molecular assassin could lead to more effective treatments for cancer and viral diseases, better therapy for autoimmune conditions, and a deeper understanding of the body’s defences enabling the development of more tightly focused immunosuppressive drugs.

How a molecular assassin operates
In this simulation, the perforin molecule (blue) punches a hole through the cell membrane (beige) providing access for toxic enzymes (red). Credit: Mike Kuiper
These are just some of the wide-ranging possibilities arising from research which has revealed the structure and function of the protein perforin, a front-line weapon in the body’s fight against rogue cells.

A pivotal role was played by 2006 Science Minister’s Life Scientist of the Year, molecular biologist Prof James Whisstock and his research team at Monash University. It was research fellow Dr Ruby Law who finally worked out how to grow crystals of perforin. And the team was then able to collaborate with Dr Tom Caradoc-Davies of the micro-crystallography beamline at the nearby Australian Synchrotron to reveal its complete molecular structure.
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Skin deep discovery reveals immune mysteries

A stain showing the presence of gamma delta T cells (green) in the dermis. The blood vasculature is shown in red, while blue represent collagen. Credit: Centenary Institute
A stain showing the presence of gamma delta T cells (green) in the dermis. The blood vasculature is shown in red, while blue represent collagen. Credit: Centenary Institute

Cells involved in the first line of our immune defence have been located where they never have been found before—a discovery that could provide insight into diseases like psoriasis and other auto-immune conditions of the skin.

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Life’s work closer to saving lives

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.

Life’s work may end up saving lives
Professor Andrew Boyd, who has seen his antibody discovery incorporated into a potential cancer treatment. Credit: QIMR
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.
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Helping eyes to help themselves

Donor corneas conditioned with DNA before being transplanted into new eyes are already actively contributing to their own success in experimental animals such as sheep.

An Australian research group is making corneal transplant easier. Credit: iStockphoto
An Australian research group is making corneal transplant easier. Credit: iStockphoto
The DNA is inserted into the cells of the cornea after it has been harvested. Then, following implantation, it produces proteins that help overcome immunological rejection.

This is one of many strands of research aimed at increasing the success rates of corneal transplants and other eye disease treatments undertaken by Prof Keryn Williams at Flinders University.
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Some secrets of breast milk revealed?

Most mothers are aware that breast milk helps boost their baby’s immune levels, but up to now it has been thought that it is mainly because of the mother’s antibodies found in human milk.

New preliminary research suggests that complex protein/sugar structures within human breast milk may bind to harmful bacteria in a baby’s gut, allowing it to then be flushed out. If this is the case, it may soon be possible to synthesise these structures and add them to cow’s milk or formula so that mothers who are unable to breastfeed – due to malnourishment, for example – can ensure their babies are still well protected against disease.

Professor Nicki Packer of the Biomolecular Frontiers research group at Macquarie University believes this defence may have evolved in humans but not cows because of our different physiology – after all, cows have four stomachs and only eat grass!

For more information: Biomolecular Frontiers research group at Macquarie University,

Prof. Nicki Packer, Tel: + 61 2 9850 8176,

nicki.packer@mq.edu.au

Vaccine hope for shellfish allergies

Researchers are working with prawns in the search for a shellfish allergy vaccine. Credit: RMIT
Researchers are working with prawns in the search for a shellfish allergy vaccine. Credit: RMIT

A new oral vaccine against shellfish allergies is being developed by researchers at RMIT University.

Assoc. Prof. Andreas Lopata and his team in RMIT’s School of Applied Sciences are working to help find a different method for vaccination against the potentially deadly allergy.

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Know your enemy

ARCMicrobialGenomics_wheel-grass-sheepDiseases such as leptospirosis, fowl cholera, bovine respiratory diseases or footrot in sheep have devastating impacts on livestock industries worldwide. They have a debilitating effect on animals, leading to food shortage and major economic losses.

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H1N1 still a threat

MIMR_H1N1_300x180Why does influenza make some of us much sicker than others? What are the implications for swine flu (H1N1)? Australian scientists are looking to past outbreaks for the answers.

In July 2009, the Australian Government responded to urgent global calls to use the Southern Hemisphere’s flu season as a catalyst for investigating the severity and global threat of the H1N1 flu strain.

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