You can learn a lot about hearts by trying to build one from scratch. A pair of scientists have grown ‘beating’ human heart muscle tissue from stem cells and are exploring cardiac regeneration.
Developmental biologist Associate Professor Enzo Porrello became interested in how newborn mammal hearts can regenerate while working in Dallas, Texas at one of the leading labs researching heart development.
Gene editing technology combined with stem cells provides a powerful new way to study genetic kidney diseases and their treatments.
Melbourne researchers have used mini-kidney ‘organoids’ grown in the lab to unravel the mystery of why Mainzer-Saldino syndrome, a rare disease involving a single defective gene, causes life-threatening kidney damage. In doing so, they’ve proven an approach that can be used to study a whole range of other genetic kidney diseases. Continue reading Mini-kidneys tell two sides of a genetic story→
A vaccine has been developed against rotavirus, which is the common cause of severe diarrhoea and a killer of approximately 215,000 children under five globally each year.
The oral vaccine was given in three single doses, the first within five days of birth. After three doses of RV3-BB administered from birth:
94 per cent of infants were protected in their first year of life against severe rotavirus gastroenteritis
75 per cent of infants were protected to 18 months of age.
The success of the RV3-BB vaccine is the culmination of more than four decades of work, which started with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute’s Professor Ruth Bishop and the discovery of rotavirus in 1973.
The trial was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and PT BioFarma.
A new rotavirus vaccine should soon be available thanks to a collaboration between PT Bio Farma and researchers in Melbourne and Yogyakarta. The new ‘RV3’ vaccine is aimed at protecting babies from birth, improving protection and simplifying delivery.
The current vaccine, available in Australia and only on the private market in Indonesia, can only be administered from six weeks of age.
Dr Elaine Saunders has made premium hearing aids more affordable and easier to use. She and her team have built on Australia’s bionic ear technologies to create a system where you can: test your hearing online; buy your hearing aid online and receive it set up ready for you; and adjust the hearing aid with your smartphone while you’re at the pub, dancing, or watching TV.
Indonesian and Australian researchers are working together to combat two big killers: pneumonia, and tuberculosis.
Around six million young Indonesians catch pneumonia each year, according to a 2008 study, and it’s the number one killer of children under five. Researchers now think there might be a link to how much time kids are spending out in the sunshine—more specifically, their level of vitamin D.
The possibility of a link between vitamin D deficiency and pneumonia is being investigated in two studies by Indonesian and Australian scientists in Indonesia.
They’re tracking the incidence and severity in early childhood of respiratory tract infections, including the common cold, asthma, pneumonia, and bronchiolitis, in hospitals and the community, in the hope of providing more information for treatment and management for respiratory diseases.
Pneumonia is the number one killer of children under five in the country, and around six million young Indonesians suffer from it each year, according to a 2008 study. This collaboration is going to update those 2008 figures, and hopefully lower them – while trying to find the causes of it and other respiratory tract infections. Continue reading Can sunshine help prevent pneumonia?→
Dr Elena Tucker, geneticist, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Melbourne
Dr Elena Tucker has brought peace of mind to families affected by rare energy disorders. She’s found genes responsible for some of these diseases.
Now, with the support of her 2014 L’Oréal For Women in Science Fellowship, she will look at hundreds of individual genomes to determine the causes of sex-determination disorders.
For the thousands of families affected by these rare disorders Elena’s work provides an understanding of the causes and opens a path to management and to potential treatments one day. And the techniques she’s developing underpin the broader development of personalised medicine.
For her PhD, Elena used high-throughput DNA sequencing to investigate the genetics of mitochondrial disease. Mitochondria are the membranous structures in the cell where food is converted into the energy that powers our bodies. Anything that disables them, such as the mutation of a gene, robs the body of the energy it needs to function. This can lead to symptoms such as seizures, muscle weakness, developmental delays, liver dysfunction, heart failure or blindness.
Elena discovered four genes, and helped in finding an additional four, within which mutations have a direct link to such conditions. This has accounted for a significant proportion of new genetic diagnoses of mitochondrial disease.
Fifty million children in the world’s poorest countries will be vaccinated against the deadly rotavirus by 2015, thanks to the breakthrough work of a quiet Melbourne researcher.
Ruth Bishop’s rotavirus discovery led to the development of the vaccine currently being rolled out by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation—and to her declaration as 2013 CSL Florey Medal winner.
Each year, around half a million children die from rotavirus infection and the acute gastroenteritis it causes.