Media releases

Manufacturing a cell therapy peace-keeping force, and more

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…]

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

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.

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

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…]

Brainwave to let Parkinson’s patients sleep through surgery

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?

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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Announcing the $200 million Digital Health CRC

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

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

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…]

Smart socks help physiotherapists treat patients remotely

‘Smart socks’ are helping physiotherapists better assess and treat patients during video consultations, by providing information on weight distribution and range of movement during exercises like steps, squats or jumps.

The wearable technology, developed by PhD candidate Deepti Aggarwal at The University of Melbourne, was trialled with three patients and a physiotherapist at the Royal Children’s Hospital, from February to June 2017.

Background images and video below.

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Robots: 22 international teams, 51 Aussie teams competing at Sydney Olympic Park from Sunday

FIRST Robotics Competition Australian Regionals kick off in Sydney from 11-18 March.

Move over Olympians! It’s athletes of a different kind that will be pitting their skills against each other at Sydney Olympic Park from 11 March-18 March.

High school teams from across the Asia Pacific are descending upon the Quaycentre to battle it out at the FIRST Robotics Competition Australian Regionals.

“It’s a competition, but it also teaches students design and engineering skills when they’re building their robots,” explains FIRST Australia director Luan Heimlich.

“They benefit from learning how to work together in teams, and cooperate and solve problems with tangible outcomes.”

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Michaelia Cash at FIRST

Beatrix Potter, pioneering scientist; using whales and fish to trace emerging viruses; travelling back in time; and uniting women in earth and environmental sciences

Female scientists have played a critical role in many scientific discoveries throughout history, but their contributions have often been overlooked.

Ahead of International Women’s Day this Thursday, Macquarie University scientists are celebrating the work of forgotten women of science through history; explaining how their work today is changing the world; and making the case for why women in earth and environmental sciences need to stand together.

  • Lesley Hughes researches the impacts of climate change on species and ecosystems. Now she’s celebrating the work of Beatrix Potter and other pioneering but forgotten women of science, through the exhibition Hidden Figures of STEMM.
  • Evolutionary biologist Jemma Geoghegan is using whales and fish to better understand how new viruses emerge.
  • Kira Westaway uses glowing grains of sand to travel back in time. Her work has transformed our understanding of human evolution.
  • Volcanologist Heather Handley’s research into volcanoes in the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’ is improving our understanding of volcanic hazards. She’s also the co-founder and chair of new network Women in Earth and Environmental Sciences Australasia (WOMESSA).

More on each of these stories  below.

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New rotavirus vaccine could benefit millions of children

22 February 2018: 

A rotavirus vaccine that can be given days after birth has been developed by Australian and Indonesian researchers.

Rotavirus is the common cause  of severe diarrhoea and a killer of approximately 215,000 children under five globally each year.

The oral vaccine, called RV3-BB, was given in three single doses, the first within five days of birth. Until now, the vaccine against rotavirus was available in Australia and only on the private market in Indonesia, and could only be administered from six weeks of age.

After three doses of RV3-BB administered from birth:

  • 94 per cent of infants were protected in their first year of life against severe rotavirus gastroenteritis
  • 75 per cent of infants were protected to 18 months of age.

The success of the RV3-BB vaccine is the culmination of more than four decades of work, which started with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute’s Professor Ruth Bishop and the discovery of rotavirus in 1973.

The trial was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and PT BioFarma.

Read the full media release on the MCRI website.

Read an earlier story on the work in our Stories of Indonesia-Australia Innovation collection from 2016.

 

World’s largest-ever ape; more efficient aircraft; and why having more women in science matters

Science needs more women and four Macquarie scientists can tell you why ahead of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science this Sunday.

  • Professor Barbara Messerle is a research chemist and leads a team of 360 academic staff and 6,400 students as the Executive Dean of Macquarie University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering.
  • Dr Shari Gallop was surprised by the level of gender inequality she encountered at the start of her academic career, so she co-founded the network to do something about it.
  • Associate Professor Kira Westaway is leading a team to hunt in China for fossils from Gigantopithecus blacki, the largest ever ape to walk the planet.
  • Dr Sophie Calabretto is developing the maths that will help designers build more efficient aircraft and climate scientists develop the next generation of global climate models – and she’s worried about the declining number of girls studying maths.

More on each of these scientists below.

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Improving rail safety in Indonesia and Australia

The sweet spot for rail repair vs efficiency

Computer models to predict how railcars will respond to different track conditions are being developed by Indonesian and Australian researchers, to improve rail safety and efficiency in both countries.

They’ve already created a successful model for passenger carriages, which has been validated against the performance of trains in Indonesia. Now the researchers are working on models for freight trains.

“For railways, it’s standard practice to measure the conditions of the track periodically,” says Dr Nithurshan Nadarajah, a research engineer at the Institute of Railway Technology at Monash University.

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Saving our species and the future of weeds: protecting biodiversity in a changing climate

Biodiversity Node at Macquarie University wins 2017 BHERT Award for Outstanding Collaboration for National (Non-Economic) Benefit

New South Wales is better placed to manage and protect its biodiversity in a changing climate thanks to the deeply collaborative work of the Biodiversity Node of the NSW Adaptation Research Hub, hosted by Macquarie University.

Since it was established in 2013, the Node has delivered research to support the management of biodiversity conservation in NSW under climate change. As a result of this research the Node has produced a suite of evidence-based online tools including:

  • Niche Finder: baseline maps of ecological ranges and climate niches
  • Threatened Species: metrics on the vulnerability of NSW threatened species to climate change
  • Weed Futures: predicting how weeds will respond to climate change
  • Climate Ready Vegetation: step-by-step instructions on revegetation planning for future climates.

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Award_winners2