Category Archives: 2021

Reptiles have emotions: Cold-blooded but not cold-hearted

A tool is being trialled at Adelaide and Melbourne zoos to help keepers decode reptile body language and measure their welfare.

Research from the University of Adelaide has come up with a list of health-based and behavioural clues which could help rewrite welfare policies for reptiles in zoos and homes.

The tool is now being trialled to monitor tortoise welfare at Adelaide and Melbourne zoos, which are collaborating with Adelaide and Melbourne universities in the research.

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New materials cut the risk of blood clots in stroke surgery

World’s first nano-scale design to mimic natural blood vessels

New materials developed by University of Melbourne researchers stop potentially deadly blood clots forming in the treatment of many cardiovascular diseases.

Fatemeh Karimi, a postdoctoral researcher, and her team have developed a new material that can be used to create artificial veins and arteries with nano-scale design used as replacements in heart and stroke surgery.

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Blink and it’s gone – restoring blink in facial paralysis

A surgically implanted electronic device could restore blinking to those who can’t

Researchers from the University of Sydney have created a device that can restore the ability to blink in people with facial paralysis, solving a medical as well as a social problem.

The Bionic Lid Implant for Natural Closure (BLINC) is an implant which actively closes the eyelid. The smart electronics detect when the individual will blink on their healthy side, triggering the device to blink for the paralysed eye.

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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.

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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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Closing in on the first light in the Universe

Research using new antennas in the Australian hinterland has reduced background noise and brought us closer to finding a 13-billion-year-old signal

The early Universe was dark, filled with a hot soup of opaque particles. These condensed to form neutral hydrogen which coalesced to form the first stars in what astronomers call the Epoch of Reionisation (EoR).

“Finding the weak signal of this first light will help us understand how the early stars and galaxies formed,” says Dr Christene Lynch from ASTRO 3D, the ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions.

Dr Lynch is first author on a paper published in Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia. She and her colleagues from Curtin University and the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research have reduced the background noise in their observations allowing them to home in on the elusive signal.

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Food and housing crisis for Melbourne’s native bees

RMIT researchers call on Melburnians to plant the right plants and create the right homes for native pollinators.
They say we’ll get better tomato crops, more flowers and boost urban biodiversity.

As Melbourne’s gardens burst into life after a wet spring, native insects are out looking for flowers and pollen. City gardeners rely on bees, butterflies and other insects to pollinate their plants, which is how flowering plants reproduce and grow fruit or seeds.

But city gardens often don’t have the right types of food and homes for these helpful native bees and flies, with knock-on effects for our gardens and for biodiversity. Urban ecologist Katherine Berthon from RMIT University found that only 43% of flowers in the Melbourne city gardens she studied were being used by bees and other pollinating insects.

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Fishing for solutions to the plastic problem

A University of Adelaide study shows industry players are open to measures to reduce plastics in seafood – but first they have to understand the problem.

More than 35 percent of fish caught in the waters off southern Australia contain microplastics, and the problem is most acute in South Australia, with plastic found in 49 percent of fish, according to research from the University of Adelaide.

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