Toxins from snakes, spiders, jellyfish and scorpions are helping scientists to better understand how pain works, with the hope of managing chronic pain more effectively.
Pain comes in many forms, requiring different treatments and often making it difficult to manage. Many painkillers have negative side effects including addiction, and for some the painkillers don’t even work.
“Many drugs achieve around 50 per cent pain relief in only one-third of patients. That’s not good enough,” says Dr Irina Vetter, Deputy Director of the Institute for Molecular Bioscience’s Centre for Pain Research at The University of Queensland.
Relief isn’t a term commonly associated with spiders, but Glenn King has found promising molecules in tarantula venom that he hopes will bring respite to the one in five Australian adults suffering from chronic pain.
Could your newly synthesised molecule kill a superbug? Matt Cooper can tell you.
His team is offering a free screening service for the world’s chemists to test their compounds against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, helping them to potentially find a new antibiotic that will fight the rise of these ‘superbugs’.
“We’re helping the community unlock the hidden value of these chemicals,” says Matt, whose team is from the Community for Open Antimicrobial Drug Discovery (CO-ADD), a not-for-profit, global initiative of The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience. The screening began in February 2015, and Matt has already received thousands of samples from locations including India, Singapore, New Zealand, France, Israel, UK and the USA.
An edible plant seed could deliver your insulin or cancer drugs if David Craik’s research progresses as hoped. His team’s work at The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience centres on cyclotides, which are a family of exceptionally stable circular proteins that occur naturally in many plants, such as violets and petunia.
Inspired by the stability and diversity of natural cyclotides, David’s team has developed a way to join the two ends of a linear protein, allowing them to create ‘designer’ cyclotides that can be incorporated into crop plants, turning them into production factories for therapeutic drugs and insecticides.
Queensland researchers believe future cancer drugs could be grown in sunflowers and ultimately delivered as a seed ‘pill’.
They’re a long way from that outcome. But, as they reported to the XVIII International Botanical Congress in Melbourne earlier this year, they have already shown that sunflowers make a precursor to cancer drugs as part of their defence against insect attack.
An Australian researcher is leading an international team of scientists developing a clean source of energy from microalgae. The team have developed one algae that not only makes oil for biodiesel production but also generates hydrogen. Commercial hydrogen production uses fossil fuels and produces carbon dioxide.