Tag Archives: medical research

A new job for glass fibres

While researching the performance of the optical fibres that are the backbone of telecommunications and the internet, Tanya Monro realised that they could do much more.

Tanya Monro. Credit: Jennie Groom

She’s invented a new class of hollow or holey fibres using soft glass, which have thousands of applications as sensors: detecting metal fatigue in aircraft wings and other structures; monitoring contamination in water supplies; and a smart bung that monitors wine development while it’s still in the barrel.

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How bugs stick to our stomachs

James Whisstock and his Monash University colleagues have uncovered how the bacterium Helicobacter pylori sticks to the stomach lining, where it can cause ulcers and sometimes cancer.

Photo: James Whisstock. Credit: MNHS Multimedia Services, Monash University

The role of Helicobacter in causing gastric ulcers was originally discovered by Australian Nobel Laureates Barry Marshall and Robin Warren.

The recent work by James and his team was performed using the Australian Synchrotron and showed how the Helicobacter pylori protein SabA interacts with sugars present on the cells that line the stomach.

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White cell assassins prove kiss of death for cancer

White blood cells have proven to be the serial assassins of the immune system, moving quickly on to their next target once they’re released from a dying cancer cell’s grip.

Misty Jenkins. Credit: L’Oréal Australia/sdpmedia.com.au

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Typhoid tips off new epidemic approach

A typhoid outbreak in Kathmandu has provided new insights into bacterial epidemics and antibiotic resistance, thanks to a Melbourne scientist’s genomic research.

Kathryn Holt. Credit: L’Oréal Australia/sdpmedia.com.au

Kathryn Holt, of the University of Melbourne’s Bio21 Institute, used genome sequencing to discover that an epidemic of deadly typhoid bacteria in Nepal’s capital city was driven by climate, and not by the outbreak of novel genetic strains.

Her research, published in the Royal Society journal Open Biology, changes our understanding of how typhoid spreads and how we can better respond to other bacterial epidemics.

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Glucosamine study raises fertility concerns

Research on the effects of the popular joint supplement glucosamine has raised fears for women’s fertility, and a knee-jerk reaction from the vitamin industry, as Adelaide scientists reveal its threat to conception.

Photo: Green staining in a glucosamine-treated egg (bottom) shows increased activity in the glucose-sensing pathway compared with a control (top). Credit: Robinson Research Institute

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Obese dads leave kids with fat chance

An obese father increases the risk of his children and grandchildren becoming obese, even if they follow a healthy diet. That’s the implication of a series of mouse studies conducted at the University of Adelaide.

Photo: A mouse with diet induced obesity and its control counterpart. Credit: Robinson Research Institute

The researchers found that a father’s high-fat diet could change the molecular make-up of his sperm, leading to obesity and diabetes-like symptoms in two generations of offspring.

“With obese fathers, changes in the sperm’s microRNA molecules are linked with programming the embryo for obesity or metabolic disease later in life,” says Tod Fullston, the study’s lead author and an NHMRC Peter Doherty Fellow with the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Research Institute.

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Preterm birth linked to teen school angst

Large numbers of premature-born children may be slipping under the radar, say researchers who have found brain development problems in teenagers deemed clinically normal after a late preterm birth.

Children born even one to five weeks premature can show reduced skills later in life.

Julia Pitcher and Michael Ridding, of the Robinson Research Institute, University of Adelaide, found that children born even one to five weeks premature showed reduced ‘neuroplasticity’ as teenagers. Their study provides the first physiological evidence of the link between late preterm birth and reduced motor, learning and social skills in later life.

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Gastro discovery leads to worldwide vaccine rollout

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. Credit: Stepping Stone Pictures

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.

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Axolotls out on limb for future human hope

An axolotl’s ability to regrow limbs and repair brain and heart tissue could shed light on how humans might one day do the same, after Melbourne scientists discovered the key role played by macrophages, immune system cells, in the animal’s regenerative process.

Axolotls are known for their ability to regrow limbs.

James Godwin and his colleagues at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI) have identified the critical role of macrophages in axolotl tissue regeneration, raising the hope of future treatments for human spinal cord and brain injuries, as well as heart and liver disease.

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Your first hug

Most people remember their first kiss but Victorian scientists have discovered that your first hug is much further back than you think.

The arm-like filopodia ‘hug’ the embryo’s cells, squeezing them into shape. Credit: EMBL Australia

Nicolas Plachta and his team at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute have discovered that embryos, when only eight cells in size, develop arm-like structures that ‘hug’ the cells into shape, helping to determine an embryo’s ultimate success.

The study, which was published in the journal Nature Cell Biology, used live imaging and fluorescent markers to capture the action in mouse embryos.

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