Fixing hearts by finding out what makes them tick

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.

Associate Professor James Hudson has a background in chemical and biological engineering. In Germany, he developed bioengineering techniques to make force-generating human heart tissue at the University Medical Center in Göttingen. Continue reading Fixing hearts by finding out what makes them tick

Studying heart development one cell at a time

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.

“Heart development is a difficult and complicated process, but we think the answers to heart repair are likely to lie in understanding heart development,” Nathan says. “So we are using stem cells to model development as it occurs in our bodies.” Continue reading Studying heart development one cell at a time

How reprogramming cells turns back time

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.

Through a series of collaborations over the last ten years the scientists have uncovered a number of stem cell secrets, opening the door for more targeted research and, ultimately, treatments for diseases. Continue reading How reprogramming cells turns back time

Wheat that’s good for guts

A new kind of wheat high in resistant starch can improve intestinal health

Bowel cancer is the world’s third most common cancer. A diet that includes more resistant starch, a kind of fibre that feeds good bacteria in the large intestine, can make it less common. Resistant starch helps improve gut health and reduces the risk of conditions such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer.

Since 2006, CSIRO scientists have been working in a joint venture with French company Limagrain Céréales Ingrédients and the Grains Research and Development Corporation to develop wheat with more resistant starch. Continue reading Wheat that’s good for guts

Reef rescue

French and Australian scientists are working together to understand how climate change is affecting reef sharks in French Polynesia, why corals in New Caledonia can survive extremes of temperature and acidity, and what fish markets mean for reef health.

Baby sharks

On Mo’orea in French Polynesia, Dr Jodie Rummer leads a project studying baby sharks to see how they will cope with climate change.

“Healthy reefs need healthy predators,” Jodie says. “And healthy predators need healthy reefs.” Continue reading Reef rescue

Fresh Science

Fresh Science helps Australian early-career researchers find their story and their voice.

Over the past 20 years Fresh Science has trained and empowered more than 500 future leaders in science to engage with the community, media, government and industry.

In 2016, we chose 60 researchers around the country, trained them, and gave them the chance to present their science in pubs, school talks and to the media. Here are a few of their stories.

Continue reading Fresh Science

From the ocean floor to batteries—partners in energy

Heading into deep water

Perth researchers help Chevron keep oil and gas flowing smoothly

Out in the Gulf of Mexico Chevron are operating a $7.5 billion platform that’s recovering oil and gas from two-kilometre-deep ocean.

It’s the largest and deepest operation in the Gulf, with over 146km of pipeline bringing oil and gas to refineries.

But pipelines operating at extreme depths in cold water and crushing pressure are prone to blockage. University of Western Australia researchers are helping Chevron keep oil and gas flowing through deep-water pipes.

Continue reading From the ocean floor to batteries—partners in energy

Are memories stored in DNA?

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?

Cars, planes…partners in advanced manufacturing

Australian and American researchers and businesses are partnering to bring new manufacturing technologies to market

Paint fit for a Dreamliner

Next time you board a new Boeing Dreamliner, take note of its Australian paint.

Developed by researchers at CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, ‘Paintbond’ has now been adopted across the entire Boeing aircraft fleet, and more than 1,000 aircraft have been re-coated using the technology so far.

Why is it better? The new spray-on topcoat paint technology saves time, reduces the impact on the environment, and is safer to use.

Continue reading Cars, planes…partners in advanced manufacturing

Improving survival for patients with acute leukaemia

Today, 85 per cent of children with leukaemia can be cured, but the outlook for patients over 60 is bleak. Only 10 per cent survive beyond one year as their cancer adapts to weather the storm of standard chemotherapy treatments. Associate Professor Steven Lane wants to change that outlook.

Steven and his team at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute have developed a method to rapidly profile the genetics of different leukaemia types—of which there are hundreds—and model them in the lab.

This allows them to work with many leukaemia types simultaneously, providing a cheaper, faster and more accurate model of the leukaemia. Continue reading Improving survival for patients with acute leukaemia