Examining how individual heart cells develop is revealing how the cells make decisions to form a working heart.
Once an adult heart is damaged, it has no ability to heal itself. Dr Nathan Palpant at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland and Associate Professor Joseph Powell at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the University of New South Wales are trying to understand how that might be changed by tracking individual stem cells along their journey to becoming heart cells.
For the past decade scientists have been able to reprogram skin cells, nasal cells and other mature cells to become pluripotent stem cells that can turn into any cell type in the human body. How it works is only starting to become clear.
Teams led by Professors Ryan Lister at the University of Western Australia, Jose Polo at Monash University and Ernst Wolvetang at The University of Queensland are working together to understand how this process occurs, whether all cell types follow the same path to becoming pluripotent cells, and if this impacts their ability to mimic disease in the laboratory.
A passenger jet could one day fly halfway around the world in just a few hours. That’s the goal of the HEXAFLY project (High-speed Experimental FLY): going beyond the supersonic realm pioneered by the now-defunct Concorde to reach hypersonic speeds more than five times as fast as sound.
Led by the European Space Agency, the project has now brought on international collaborators to prepare for an early stage test flight planned for 2020.
The idea that long-term memory might be stored in our brain’s DNA is being tested by Professor Geoff Faulkner, using brains affected by Alzheimer’s.
Geoff has already shown that the DNA in our brains is different to the DNA in the rest of our bodies and that it changes as we learn. He’s proposing that these changes are associated with how we store our long-term memories.
More recently, he’s linked these differences to the function of genes in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory and spatial navigation, and has been implicated in memory loss with ageing, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease. Continue reading Are memories stored in DNA?→
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.
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.
“Dengue has a significant impact on both Australia and Indonesia—the disease is hyper-endemic in Indonesia and affects the daily life of people living in the country,” says Dr Tedjo Sasmono of the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology in Jakarta.
Their researchers have been working with The University of Queensland to create a new way to screen blood for dengue virus.
It’s the result of a joint-research project on dengue diagnostics, initiated in 2015 and funded by an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage grant in collaboration with the Australian Red Cross Blood Service.
Professor Perry Bartlett is putting people with dementia on treadmills.
He has already reversed dementia and recovered spatial memories in mice through exercise. And in 2016 he and colleagues at The University of Queensland will begin clinical trials to see if exercise will have the same impact in people with dementia. Then he’ll look at depression.
Underpinning these projects is the idea that the brain is constantly changing; and that learning, memory, mood, and many other brain functions are in part regulated by the production of new neurons.
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.