Tag Archives: Feature

Unboiling an egg

Scientists in Australia and California have worked out how to unboil an egg. It may sound like an odd discovery, but it’s changed the way scientists think about manipulating proteins, an industry worth AU$160 billion per year.

Flinders University Professor Colin Raston and his team have developed Vortex Fluid Technology – using mechanical energy, or spinning, to reverse the effects of thermal energy, or boiling.

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Kimberley corals are true Aussie battlers

Zoe collecting samples for further molecular analysis. Photo WA Museum
Zoe colleacting samples for further molecular analysis. Photo WA Museum

While coral reefs around the world are feeling the heat, little-known reefs in Australia’s Kimberley region are prospering, despite living in some of the toughest conditions—and scientists aren’t yet sure why.

The discovery has particular significance this summer with fears of a severe coral bleaching event to hit our northern waters—the result of steadily rising sea temperatures and a strong seasonal El Niño.

WA researchers have found that while coral reefs all around the world are feeling the heat of rising temperatures, some inshore reefs in the Kimberley region’s Bonaparte Archipelago are prospering, despite living in some of the toughest conditions. Continue reading Kimberley corals are true Aussie battlers

Where are the plants and animals we want to conserve, and the invaders we want to control?

Jane Elith is one of the most influential environmental scientists in the world, though she rarely ventures into the field.

Jane Elith (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)
In the field of environment and ecology, Jane is the 11th most cited author worldwide over the past 10 years. Credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear

She develops and assesses species distribution models, which are used by governments, land and catchment managers and conservationists around the world—in short, for applying the lessons of ecology.

Continue reading Where are the plants and animals we want to conserve, and the invaders we want to control?

Filtering the blood to keep cancer in check

A new diagnostic system used to detect cancer cells in small blood samples could next be turned towards filtering a patient’s entire system to remove those dangerous cells – like a dialysis machine for cancer – says an Australian researcher who helped develop the system.

The technique was developed for cancer diagnosis, and is capable of detecting (and removing) a tiny handful of cancer-spreading cells from amongst the billions of healthy cells in a small blood sample.

The revolutionary system, which works to diagnose cancer at a tenth of the cost of competing technologies, is now in clinical trials in the US, UK, Singapore and Australia, and is in the process of being commercialised by Clearbridge BioMedics PteLtd in Singapore.

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Can sunshine help prevent pneumonia?

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.

A post-delivery mother with a midwife, after cord blood has been collected
A mother and her newborn with a midwife, after cord blood has been collected. Credit: Mr Noor Qodri H

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?

Press print for more body parts

“You can’t teach anatomy without bodies. Or at least you couldn’t until now,” says Monash University’s Paul McMenamin.

He and his colleagues are printing 3D plastic body parts of unprecedented detail and accuracy that have the potential to revolutionise anatomy teaching.

The printed parts will hold up to repeated handling and close study. Credit: Centre for Human Anatomy Education
The printed parts will hold up to repeated handling and close study. Credit: Centre for Human Anatomy Education

Anatomy students need a high degree of familiarity with the intricate details of the human body. That ideally comes with repeated handling and hands-on study. But students are often reluctant to touch a cadaver any more than necessary.

Removing the emotional, ethical and physical restrictions to close handling and repeated study improves the students’ familiarity with the human body. Another advantage of the printing is the expertly applied false colouring picking out intricate nerves, veins, arteries and ligaments that are much harder to identify in preserved cadavers.

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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.”

Continue reading Blood reveals Great Barrier Reef sharks as homebodies

Looking for dark matter in a gold mine

Deep underground in rural Victoria, Matteo Volpi is searching for evidence of the cosmic glue that holds the Universe together: dark matter.

Matteo is taking the initial measurements for the study at Stawell Gold Mine where an international team is set to construct a $3.5 million laboratory more than a kilometre underground.

Matteo Volpi is looking for dark matter in the Stawell Gold Mine. Credit: Michael Slezak
Matteo Volpi is looking for dark matter in the Stawell Gold Mine. Credit: Michael Slezak

Understanding dark matter is regarded as one of the most important questions of modern particle physics.

“If we nail it, it’s a Nobel Prize– winning experiment,” says the project leader Elisabetta Barberio, a University of Melbourne physicist and chief investigator of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Particle Physics at the Terascale (CoEPP).

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