Modern humans were in Southeast Asia 20,000 years earlier than previously thought

Dating of ancient human teeth discovered in a Sumatran cave site suggests modern humans were in Southeast Asia 20,000 years earlier than previously thought.

The international research, led by Dr Kira Westaway from Macquarie University and published in Nature, has pushed back the timing of when humans first left Africa, their arrival in Southeast Asia, and the first time they lived in rainforests.

Continue reading Modern humans were in Southeast Asia 20,000 years earlier than previously thought

Fighting disease together

Malaria kills 500,000 people every year. And 90 per cent of those are children. Griffith University researchers are screening hundreds of thousands of compounds supplied by Japanese companies to find the right compound with activity against the malaria parasite.

Japan’s Global Health Innovative Technology Fund is supporting the research as part of their search for new ways to fight malaria.

“GHIT is a fund that invests in partnerships between Japanese and non-Japanese entities,” says BT Slingsby, the Executive Director of GHIT.

“Many of those entities are in Australia including The University of Melbourne, The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, and Griffith University.”

“Currently we’re working with companies such as Daiichi-Sankyo, Takeda, Mitsubishi Tanabe, and Eisai,” says Griffith University’s Vicky Avery. 

They bring those compounds to us. We then dispense them into plates which contain the parasite we’re trying to kill.  After they’ve been incubated for a period of time we then look to see whether they’ve had an effect in killing the parasites.

“Once one defines a hit, usually it’s the pharmaceutical company that drives forward the further development of that compound to create a drug.

“This collaboration is fantastic in that it has three groups who complement each other,” Vicky says.

The Japanese pharma companies bring expertise in drug discovery and development.  GHIT has managed to pull together significant funding from both global partners as well as the Japanese Government. And Griffith University brings the biology expertise.

Blood reveals Great Barrier Reef sharks as homebodies

Small Australian sharks have been exposed as bigger homebodies than previously thought, in a study that took an existing chemical tracking technique and made it work for Great Barrier Reef sharks.

Dr Sam Munroe in the field
Dr Sam Munroe working in the field, Cleveland Bay, Queensland

The study found that the travel history of the Australian sharpnose shark was written in their blood—with chemical ‘fin-prints’ showing they tended to stay within smaller areas than previously believed.

“Small-bodied sharks that are both predator and prey, such as the Australian sharpnose, may be particularly important links between food webs,” says lead researcher Dr Sam Munroe, who studied the sharks while at James Cook University in Townsville.

“Information on their movements can improve our understanding of how the ecosystems function, while also helping us predict species most at risk from the impacts of a changing environment.”

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Finding new drugs for malaria

New drugs may be on the way for malaria, a disease that helps push millions of people into extreme poverty, thanks to an Australian team working with a remarkable new Japanese organisation.

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Micro sensors for extreme conditions

Miniaturised sensors are nothing new, but ones made from a combination of silicon carbide (SiC) and the single-layer lattice of carbon atoms known as graphene certainly are. These new sensors are being designed to operate under the harshest of conditions.

Tiny structures etched into graphene-silicon carbide wafers, will be used in micro sensors for a variety of applications
Tiny structures etched into graphene-silicon carbide wafers, will be used in micro sensors for a variety of applications. Credit: QMF/GU

Research, led by the Australian National Fabrication Facility’s (ANFF) Queensland node at Griffith University, promises a new generation of tiny microelectromechanical system (MEMS) sensors that are sensitive to very low forces, can work at high frequencies and in extreme conditions—above 1,000°C or under an acceleration of several times g—and are resistant to chemical attack. Continue reading Micro sensors for extreme conditions

Are forests really the carbon sink we need?

Ivett_300x180Evidence is building to suggest that our forests may not be the climate change ‘get out jail free’ card we all want.

Australian Rivers Institute’s Assoc. Prof. Peter Pollard has researched rainforest lakes and rivers to test a provocative theory. The respiration of bacteria living and ‘breathing’ in these freshwater ecosystems is a major pathway for the return of rainforest carbon back to the atmosphere as the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

Continue reading Are forests really the carbon sink we need?