All posts by Sarah Bradley

Eyes in the sky

Showing the way to more efficient agriculture

A new project using data acquired using the European Sentinel satellites from the EU’s Copernicus Earth observation program is promising more efficient agricultural solutions for Australian farmers by monitoring crop development, water and nutrient status and suggesting strategic responses.

Dubbed ‘COALA’ – Copernicus Applications and services for Low impact agriculture in Australia – the project is funded under the EU’s Horizon 2020 program.

 “One of the aims was to transfer technology and services that have been delivered and are already working in Spain and Italy and adapt to Australian conditions,” says Professor Graciela Metternicht from the University of New South Wales, part of a team of 11 partner companies and universities.

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Calcium from millet?

Fortifying crops provides developing communities with the nutrients they need

Dietary deficiencies are a scourge of the developing world where a lack of diversity of food can leave people dangerously short of vital nutrients.

For decades, Flinders University plant physiologist and biochemist Professor James Stangoulis has been working to combat this through the biofortification of crops to make staple foods work harder to provide more micronutrients – the vitamins and minerals the human body needs to function properly but does not produce itself.

Continue reading Calcium from millet?

A cure for premature ageing?

A heating world takes its toll on riesling Down Under

These days we all understand that too much harsh sunshine can prematurely age our skin, but it seems that climate change is revealing a similar threat to wine grapes.

Riesling grapes in particular are struggling in parts of Australia where they have previously thrived.

“In recent years young riesling wines have started to show a premature ‘aged’ character,” says Dr Yevgeniya Grebneva, a German scientist working jointly for the Australian Wine Research Institute and the Hochschule Geisenheim University.

Continue reading A cure for premature ageing?

Eating plastic makes for smaller mussels

RMIT researcher calls for reducing ‘microplastics’ in bathroom products

Mussels in Port Phillip Bay near Melbourne are ingesting microscopic pieces of plastic used in cosmetics. And it’s affecting their ability to grow and reproduce, an RMIT University eco-toxicologist has found.

The microplastics travel from our bathroom sinks to the ocean, where they are easily confused with algae or seaweeds. Because they cannot tell the difference, the mussels take in the plastic along with their normal diet of algae.

But, says researcher Dr Charlene Trestrail, the plastics affect the action of four of their key digestive enzymes which means the mussels then struggle to break down starch into the simple sugars they need to survive.

“We don’t think the plastic affects mussels directly, but it does reduce their ability to digest the real food in their gut, which means they miss out on energy and nutrients,” says Dr Trestrail.

Continue reading Eating plastic makes for smaller mussels

Smart glove to train young surgeons

A glove is being trialled at Liverpool Hospital that gives surgical trainees instant and accurate feedback. Researchers say the gloves could also be used by musicians and artists.

Engineers at Western Sydney University have invented a new surgical glove built around low-cost sensors which can record hand movements in fine detail, giving trainee surgeons and their mentors actionable data to evaluate and improve on intricate surgical procedures.

The research team are working closely with surgeons and students at Liverpool Hospital to develop the technology, which will augment rather than replace traditional surgical training.

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A new tool to measure social inclusion to save lives

Work, housing and friendships are core factors to feeling included.

A new tool developed by researchers at Orygen to measure and monitor social inclusion was tested with more than 500 young people.

By identifying the early signs of isolation and loneliness, support can be provided to prevent more serious mental ill-health.

In mental healthcare, simple screening tools for common conditions like depression and anxiety make it possible to diagnose people quickly and get help sooner.

A new tool developed at Orygen does the same, but for social inclusion: the F-SIM (Filia Social Inclusion Measure), developed by Dr Kate Filia and being presented in Hobart this week at the Society for Mental Health Research conference, could help to pinpoint the causes of isolation and social exclusion,

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Ancient campfires reveal a 50,000 year old grocer and pharmacy

For the first time in Australia, archaeobotany has been used by researchers from UWA to examine charcoal from ancient campfires in the Western Desert.

They found wattle and other Acacias which proves it was (and still is) used by Indigenous people for tools, food and medicine.

The iconic wattle isn’t just about sports uniforms and the coat of arms – new finds in the oldest archaeological site on the land of the Martu in the Western Desert shows how wattle has defined culture and been important to Australians for over 50,000 years.

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Single test for over 50 genetic diseases will cut diagnosis from decades to days

A new DNA test, developed by researchers at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney and collaborators from Australia, UK and Israel, has been shown to identify a range of hard-to-diagnose neurological and neuromuscular genetic diseases quicker and more-accurately than existing tests.

‘We correctly diagnosed all patients with conditions that were already known, including Huntington’s disease, fragile X syndrome, hereditary cerebellar ataxias, myotonic dystrophies, myoclonic epilepsies, motor neuron disease and more,’ says Dr Ira Deveson, Head of Genomics Technologies at the Garvan Institute and senior author of the study.

The diseases covered by the test belong to a class of over 50 diseases caused by unusually-long repetitive DNA sequences in a person’s genes – known as ‘Short Tandem Repeat (STR) expansion disorders’.

Continue reading Single test for over 50 genetic diseases will cut diagnosis from decades to days