This week at Science in Public

This Week

The future of electronics is chemical

Macquarie University, Media releases

We can’t cram any more processing power into silicon-based computer chips.

But a paper published in Nature overnight reveals how we can make electronic devices 10 times smaller, and use molecules to build electronic circuits instead.

Computer chip

Image credit: Brian Kostiuk/Unsplash

We’re reaching the limits of what we can do with conventional silicon semiconductors. In order for electronic components to continue getting smaller we need a new approach.

Molecular electronics, which aims to use molecules to build electronic devices, could be the answer.

But until now, scientists haven’t been able to make a stable device platform for these molecules to sit inside which could reliably connect with the molecules, exploit their ability to respond to a current, and be easily mass-produced.

An international team of researchers, including Macquarie University’s Associate Professor Koushik Venkatesan, have developed a proof of concept device which they say addresses all these issues.

Their research was published overnight in Nature.

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When will stem cells save more lives?

Conferences, International Society for Stem Cell Research 2018 Annual Meeting, Media releases

When will stem cells save more lives?

Melissa Little and her colleagues worked for six years to bring the world’s largest stem cell meeting to Melbourne this week.

What did she learn? What are the next big steps should we should be watching for in curing diseases and saving lives with stem cells?

Melissa can also talk about her own research at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. She’s made mini-kidneys that are a step towards stopping a silent killer, chronic kidney disease.

The International Society for Stem Cell Research 2018 Annual Meeting closes today. 2,500+ stem cell scientists from 53 countries heard from 150+ speakers.

Treating haemophilia and eye disease with gene therapy

Katherine High (USA) will report today on an FDA approved gene therapy for a form of blindness, and on a clinical trial in people with haemophilia. [click to continue…]

Manufacturing a cell therapy peace-keeping force, and more

Conferences, International Society for Stem Cell Research 2018 Annual Meeting, Media releases, Other

20-23 June 2018 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

International Society for Stem Cell Research 2018 Annual Meeting: 2,500+ stem cell scientists from 50 countries will hear from 150+ speakers including:

Lab-grown mini-brains make new connections

Fred ‘Rusty’ Gage (USA) is making mini-brains from human stem cells in the lab. But in order for these new tissues to function, they need to become well-connected.

Fred is pioneering research to explore how transplanted human neural organoids (mini-organs) can mature into tissues with blood vessel and nerve connections. This work could lead to methods of replacing brain tissue lost to stroke or disease, and repairing spinal cords damaged by trauma.

Tracing blood back to its beginnings to tackle leukaemia

Right now, the stem cells in your bone marrow are making one billion new red blood cells per minute. Andrew Elefanty (Australia) is studying both embryonic stem cells and more specialised blood-forming stem cells to reveal how our body makes blood and what leads to leukaemia and other blood diseases. He will reveal his team’s latest insights. [click to continue…]

Key day 100 survival outcomes for graft versus host disease trial: 2018 ISSCR Annual Meeting

Conferences, International Society for Stem Cell Research 2018 Annual Meeting

New York, USA; June 20, 2018; and Melbourne, Australia; June 21, 2018:

Mesoblast Limited (ASX:MSB; Nasdaq:MESO) today announced key Day 100 survival outcomes of its Phase 3 trial for remestemcel-L, an allogeneic mesenchymal stem cell product candidate, in children with steroid refractory acute Graft Versus Host Disease (aGVHD). The results are being presented today at the 2018 annual meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR), being held in Melbourne from June 20-23.

The open-label Phase 3 trial enrolled 55 children with steroid-refractory aGVHD (aged between two months and 17 years) in 32 sites across the United States, with 89% of patients suffering from the most severe form, grade C/D aGVHD. The trial was performed under an United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Investigational New Drug Application (NCT#02336230). [click to continue…]

Treating diabetes; turning skin cells into brain cells; hearts in a dish

Media releases

20-23 June 2018 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

International Society for Stem Cell Research 2018 Annual Meeting: 2,500+ stem cell scientists from 50 countries will hear from 150+ speakers including:

Treating type 1 diabetes with stem cells

A Harvard team has shown they can control glucose levels in mice using a transplant of insulin-producing cells made from human stem cells. Doug Melton presents his research today.

His effort to fight diabetes involves a 30-person lab at Harvard and a start-up company, Semma Therapeutics, which he named after his children. His son Sam and daughter Emma both have type 1 diabetes.

Skin cells become brain cells to solve a mystery

Queensland researchers have taken skin cells from a young patient with a rare genetic brain condition and turned them into stem cells that are coaxed to become brain cells. Massimo Damiani has now passed away, but his legacy of growing  brain cells in the lab could help others with this rare condition.

Hearts in a dish helping personalised medicine

Queensland researchers have taken skin cells from a young patient with a rare genetic brain condition and turned them into stem cells that are coaxed to become brain cells. Massimo Damiani has now passed away, but his legacy of growing  brain cells in the lab could help others with this rare condition.

Christine Mummery and her Dutch research team have discovered that heart cells made from patient stem cells with known mutations predicted the electrical heart problems and drug sensitivities observed in the patients themselves.

Christine is co-author of the book Stem Cells: Scientific Facts and Fiction.

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Could you regrow an arm or a leg? Salamanders can.

International Society for Stem Cell Research 2018 Annual Meeting, Media releases
  • Could you regrow an arm or a leg? Salamanders can.
  • Should you be allowed to try unapproved treatments without the FDA tick when you’re terminally ill? President Trump says yes.

20-23 June 2018 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

International Society for Stem Cell Research 2018 Annual Meeting: more than 2,500 stem cell scientists from 50 countries will hear from 150+ speakers, including:

Taking stem cell science from the lab to the clinic, and what’s wrong with the US ‘right to try’ legislation—Roger Barker, UK

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Photos: ASSCR Stem Cell Image Competition 2018 highlights

Conferences, International Society for Stem Cell Research 2018 Annual Meeting

Here is a selection of images from the Australasian Society for Stem Cell Research (ASSCR) Stem Cell Image Competition 2018, being held in conjunction with the International Society for Stem Cell Research 2018 Annual Meeting.

Images may be used by the media, provided credit is given to the photographer.

For hi-res versions please click on the photo and then right click to download the file.

Human forebrain neurons derived from induced pluripotent stem cells and infected with Australian bat lyssavirus, a type of rabies found in Australian bats. (Credit: Vinod Sundaramoorthy / ASSCR)

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Stem cells: making blood, replacing skin, restoring eyesight. Regulations need to protect patients from snake oil merchants

Conferences, International Society for Stem Cell Research 2018 Annual Meeting, Media releases

Media preview

20-23 JUNE 2018 AT THE MELBOURNE CONVENTION AND EXHIBITION CENTRE

  • Stem cells are saving lives today—through bone marrow and cord blood transplants
  • We’ll hear about trials making new skin, restoring sight, treating diabetes, repairing the brain
  • But we’ll also hear of the dangers of risky treatments, snake oil merchants, and new US regulations

Australia is tightening regulations in an effort to reign in rogue stem cell clinics.

The US is also cracking down on clinics marketing unproven treatments to patients. But ‘right to try’ laws there allow seriously ill patients to try experimental therapies without regulation or oversight. Doctors and scientists are alarmed.

More than 2,500 stem cell scientists from 50 countries are in Melbourne next week for the massive International Society for Stem Cell Research 2018 Annual Meeting. They will hear sound science from 150+ speakers, including: [click to continue…]

ISSCR Opposes Proposal to Restrict Fetal Tissue Research

Conferences, International Society for Stem Cell Research 2018 Annual Meeting

Media release issued by ISSCR

The ISSCR, the largest professional organization of stem cell researchers from around the world, opposes the U.S. House of Representatives proposal to ban federal funding for fetal tissue research. ISSCR President Hans Clevers released the following statement:

“There is no scientific or ethical basis for the proposed restriction on fetal tissue research, which would roll back decades of consensus in the U.S., irreparably delaying the development of new medical treatments. Research using fetal tissue has saved millions of lives through the development of vaccines for diseases that once ravaged communities across the world. Polio is now almost eradicated, and rubella, measles, chickenpox, and rabies are all preventable diseases because of fetal tissue research. [click to continue…]

Why bluetongue lizards’ tongues are blue

Macquarie University, Media releases, Stories

Bluetongue lizards use their tongues as a last-ditch effort to avoid being eaten, according to the latest research from the Lizard Lab at Macquarie University in Sydney. [click to continue…]

ISSCR Responds to President Trump Signing ‘Right to Try’ Law

Conferences, International Society for Stem Cell Research 2018 Annual Meeting

Media release issued by ISSCR

The ISSCR is disappointed with the enactment of the ‘Right to Try’ law. Along with more than 100 patient and research groups opposing the bill, we believe it will put patients at risk and undermine the effective FDA Expanded Access Program already in place to give seriously ill patients access to experimental treatments.

“Instead of helping patients, this law will harm patients by providing a route for snake-oil salesman to evade regulation and sell unproven and scientifically dubious therapies to patients,” said ISSCR President Hans Clevers. “In recent months, several patients have been blinded by clinics administering unproven stem cell interventions for eye disease. The Right to Try bill only emboldens bad actors looking for ways to take advantage of desperate patients,” he said. [click to continue…]

Getting more out of your ARC impact statements; meet the 2018 Fresh Scientists at the pub; Science Week is coming; and more

Science stakeholder bulletins

Fresh Science: join us at the pub in Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and (for the first time) Canberra to meet this year’s Fresh Scientists, 60 early-career researchers with stories to tell.

Details below.

Impact statements: you’ve sweated blood getting them together and uploaded to the ARC. Can you do more with them? Or do you have other research you’d like to promote? We’d love to help you turn them into short impact stories for the public and get them out through your, and our, social media channels.

We’ll also publish a selection of them in our next Stories of Australian Science print publication. If you book five or more stories, we’ll include them as a feature spread with your logo, and design flyers that you can share with partners, hand out at Open Day and the like.

Prices range from $1,300 + GST for a single story to $1,100 + GST per story when you book five or more.

More details below.

National Science Week: more than a million people and 2,000 events—it’s big. As national publicists for the Week we can help publicise any Science Week event that grabs our interest. Make sure you register your event so we can consider it for promotion. And let me know by email if you’ve got something really special happening.

Read on for some of the early highlights.

Pitch and communication training: we have courses coming up around the country.

Melbourne: Tuesday 31 July, Tuesday 9 October
Adelaide: Wednesday 14 November
Sydney: Wednesday 4 July, Wednesday 29 August
Perth: Friday 7 December

You can book via Eventbrite, or read on for more about our bespoke training.

In this bulletin:

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Brainwave to let Parkinson’s patients sleep through surgery

Media releases

Melbourne scientists have discovered a unique brain signal that will act as a homing device, making deep brain stimulation surgery for Parkinson’s disease and other conditions more accurate, more effective, and less confronting for the patient.

Deep brain stimulation has transformed the lives of people with Parkinson’s disease by reducing their tremors and other symptoms. Surgeons insert electrodes to stimulate a tiny part of the brain—the size of a grain of rice. To get the best results the patient has to be awake. And that’s scary for many patients. Now they can sleep through the surgery.

Bionics Institute clinicians and researchers have recorded and studied the brainwaves of 19 patients during surgery—14 with Parkinson’s disease and five with a condition called essential tremor. They discovered that the part that they’re targeting produces a unique brain signal that can be used to guide the surgeon.

This discovery will enable the surgery to be performed without the need for the patient to be awake.

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Are damselflies in distress?

Macquarie University, Media releases

How are insects responding to rapid climate change?

Molecular Ecology paper Monday, 30 April 2018

Damselflies mating

The blue-tailed damselfly (Ischnura elegans) in mating formation. Photo: Rachael Dudaniec

Damselflies are evolving rapidly as they expand their range in response to a warming climate, according to new research led by Macquarie University researchers in Sydney.

“Genes that influence heat tolerance, physiology, and even vision are giving them evolutionary options to help them cope with climate change. Other insects may not be so lucky,” says Dr Rachael Dudaniec, lead author of the paper.

The study, published in Molecular Ecology today, investigated the genetics of an insect’s capacity to adapt and survive in a changing world by looking at the blue-tailed damselfly (Ischnura elegans) in Sweden.

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ISSCR 2018 to Highlight Research Driving New Discoveries and Advances in Regenerative Medicine

Conferences, International Society for Stem Cell Research 2018 Annual Meeting

Media release issued by ISSCR

Progress in stem cell research and its translation to medicine is the focus of the International Society for Stem Cell Research annual meeting 20-23 June at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre in Melbourne, Australia. More than 3,000 stem cell scientists, bioethicists, clinicians, and industry professionals from over 50 countries will share and discuss the latest discoveries and technologies within the field, and how they are advancing regenerative medicine.

The ISSCR annual meeting is the world’s largest meeting focused on stem cell research, with lectures, workshops, poster presentations, and a dynamic exhibition floor with nearly 100 exhibitors. Presentations span the breadth of the field, including topics such as cell-based disease modeling, gene editing and gene therapy, neural, cardiac, blood and other developmental systems and their diseases, and potential breakthrough therapies currently being tested in clinical trials, among others. [click to continue…]

Nominations for Fresh Science now open

Fresh Science

Do you know any early-career researchers who have peer-reviewed results, a discovery, or an invention that has received little or no media attention?

Please nominate them for Fresh Science, our national competition that helps early-career researchers find, and then share, their stories of discovery. Scientists get a day of media training and the chance to share their work with the media, general public and school students.

Fresh Science is looking for:

  • early-career researchers (from honours students to no more than five years post-PhD)
  • a peer-reviewed discovery that has had little or no media coverage
  • some ability to present ideas in everyday English.

Fresh Science 2018 will run in Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria and NSW. We’ll also run it in other states and territories where we can secure local support.

I’d appreciate it if you could circulate this to early-career researchers in your organisation.

If you’d like to share our flyer calling for nominations, you can download it as a PDF or a jpeg or share the call on social media using #FreshSci

How to nominate [click to continue…]

Announcing the $200 million Digital Health CRC

Digital Health CRC, Media releases

A $200+ million opportunity to transform health delivery: improving health outcomes; reducing waste in the health system; building businesses and jobs.

Announced on Friday 13 April with:

  • Senator Zed Seselja, Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation
  • Professor Christine Bennett, Interim-Chair of the Digital Health CRC
  • Dr Bronwyn Evans, Chair of MTP Connect
  • Dr Zoran Bolevich, Chief Executive, eHealth NSW
  • David Jonas – CEO Designate of the Digital Health CRC

Australia’s health system has contributed to a transformation in the human condition. We’re living longer – a child born today will on average live to 83 and see in the 22nd Century. We’ve largely defeated infectious diseases and our roads and workplaces are safer than they’ve ever been.

But

Our longer lives bring with them a greater risk of chronic and degenerative diseases which are difficult and expensive to manage and treat.

Obesity and Type 2 diabetes are on the rise. The health system can’t keep up. Australia’s annual health expenditure has passed $170 billion which is more than 10 per cent of GDP.

And the system is splitting at the seams. It’s too complex: for patients and their families, for health professionals, for industry, and for government. For example, adverse drug reactions in Australia are responsible for over 400,000 GP visits a year, and for 30 per cent of elderly emergency admissions. The cost is over $1.2 billion. We believe that half the cost is avoidable.

The Digital Health CRC will

  • Improve the health and wellness of hundreds of thousands of Australians
  • Improve the value of care and reduce adverse drug events
  • Join up data in the health system creating an improved system benefiting all Australians
  • Save the Australian health system $1.8 billion
  • Create at least 1000 new jobs in the digital health and related industry sectors
  • Create new companies and products for Australian and global markets
  • Create a new digital workforce and build the capacity of clinicians and consumers to become digital health ‘natives’

The Digital Health CRC’s 80-member organisations represent every segment of the health system from patient to community, hospital to insurer, start-up to big government. Our researchers, from 16 universities, will work with our health partners to develop and test solutions that work for real patients in real hospitals and other settings of care. And our business partners will work alongside them to ensure that the solutions are scalable and implementable. We’ll develop them in Australia, then take them to the world.  To catalyse the latter, we are partnering with US-based company, HMS, that provides solutions and services to health insurers and their customers across 48 US states.

Media release from the CRC: www.scienceinpublic.com.au/media-releases/digitalhealth

Backgrounder: www.scienceinpublic.com.au/media-releases/digitalhealth-backgrounder

For interviews and further information visit www.digitalhealthcrc.com

Or contact:

Senator the Hon. Zed Seselja, Liberal Senator for the ACT, Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation (centre) attending the press call with the Digital Health CRC team

Senator the Hon. Zed Seselja, Liberal Senator for the ACT, Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation and others attending the press call

Digital Health CRC announcement – media release

Digital Health CRC, Media releases

Government backs $200 million Digital Health R&D initiative

A $200+ million opportunity to transform health delivery:
improving health outcomes; reducing waste in the health system; building businesses and jobs.

Launch with Senator Zed Seselja at 10 am, ‘Fountain Courtyard’, Sydney Hospital, Macquarie Street, Sydney.

The new Digital Health CRC (Cooperative Research Centre) will invest over $200 million to develop and test digital health solutions that work for real patients in real hospitals and health services, while equipping Australians to better manage their own health and wellness.

Senator the Hon. Zed Seselja, Liberal Senator for the ACT, Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation announced today that the Government will invest $55 million through its CRC program to further develop Australia’s growing Digital Health technology and services industry.  The Centre was one of only four CRC’s funded in this round. [click to continue…]

Digital health backgrounder

Digital Health CRC, Media releases

The challenges

Australia’s health system has contributed to a transformation in the human condition.

We’re living longer – a child born today will on average live to 83 and see in the 22nd Century.

We’ve largely defeated infectious diseases and our roads and workplaces are safer than they’ve ever been.

But

Our longer lives bring with them a greater risk of chronic and degenerative diseases which are difficult and expensive to manage and treat. Half of us have one or more chronic conditions. If we’re over 65 then 30 per cent of us have three or more chronic conditions.

Obesity is on the rise and Type 2 diabetes is reaching almost epidemic levels across the developed and developing world.

The health system can’t keep up. Annual health expenditure has passed $170 billion which is more than 10 per cent of GDP.

And the system is splitting at the seams. It’s too complex: for patients and their families, for health professionals, for industry, and for government.

Digital transformation is part of the solution.

Digital technologies have transformed how we work, travel, shop and socialise. We can buy almost anything we want in a moment using a smartphone. Why can’t we manage our health – our appointments, our medications, our records using our smartphones?

Digital Health could improve health outcomes AND reduce costs by

  • giving care providers all the information they need
  • providing transparency and access for consumers empowering them to manage their own health
  • saving 20 to 30 per cent of the health budget by reducing low value care, adverse events and other problems
  • enabling every Australian to manage their own health with their smartphone
  • offering new national and international opportunities for smart health companies.

However, around the world government and the private sector have struggled with the complexity of digital transformation. In Australia the system still depends too heavily on physical records, faxes and the post, and even where information is available in digital form, it is often difficult to access and join-up with related health information.

The Digital Health CRC’s 80-member organisations represent every segment of the health system from patient to community, hospital to insurer, start-up to big government.

Our researchers, from 16 universities, will work with our health partners to develop and test solutions that work for real patients in real hospitals and other settings of care. And our business partners will work alongside them to ensure that the solutions are scalable and implementable. We’ll develop them in Australia, then take them to the world. [click to continue…]