Sarah Bradley

An immune ‘fingerprint’ reveals path for better treatment of autoimmune diseases

Most autoimmune diseases are easy to diagnose but hard to treat. A paper published in Science proposes using your unique immune cell fingerprint to rapidly identify which treatments will work for your autoimmune disease.

‘We analysed the genomic profile of over one million cells from 1,000 people to identify a fingerprint linking genetic markers to diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, type 1 diabetes, spondylitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and Crohn’s disease,’ says Professor Joseph Powell, joint lead author at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. ‘We were able to do this using single cell sequencing, a new technology that allows us to detect subtle changes in individual cells,’ he says.

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Music teaches deaf and hard-of-hearing children to listen

Group music therapy helps hearing-impaired kids understand complex sounds

The improved listening skills boost educational and emotional growth

A 12-week music program is helping deaf and hard-of-hearing children learn to optimise their hearing aids and cochlear implants, by teaching them to better understand the sounds they detect.

The program, developed by Dr Chi Yhun Lo from Macquarie University, helps the children to extract meaningful information, such as separating noise from what they want to hear, a skill that is critical to their education and emotional development.

“Deafness is often seen as a barrier to engagement with music,” says Chi. “On the contrary, music actually is an excellent way to improve the problems associated with hearing loss.”

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Eating plastic makes for smaller mussels

RMIT researcher calls for reducing ‘microplastics’ in bathroom products

Mussels in Port Phillip Bay near Melbourne are ingesting microscopic pieces of plastic used in cosmetics. And it’s affecting their ability to grow and reproduce, an RMIT University eco-toxicologist has found.

The microplastics travel from our bathroom sinks to the ocean, where they are easily confused with algae or seaweeds. Because they cannot tell the difference, the mussels take in the plastic along with their normal diet of algae.

But, says researcher Dr Charlene Trestrail, the plastics affect the action of four of their key digestive enzymes which means the mussels then struggle to break down starch into the simple sugars they need to survive.

“We don’t think the plastic affects mussels directly, but it does reduce their ability to digest the real food in their gut, which means they miss out on energy and nutrients,” says Dr Trestrail.

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Smart glove to train young surgeons

A glove is being trialled at Liverpool Hospital that gives surgical trainees instant and accurate feedback. Researchers say the gloves could also be used by musicians and artists.

Engineers at Western Sydney University have invented a new surgical glove built around low-cost sensors which can record hand movements in fine detail, giving trainee surgeons and their mentors actionable data to evaluate and improve on intricate surgical procedures.

The research team are working closely with surgeons and students at Liverpool Hospital to develop the technology, which will augment rather than replace traditional surgical training.

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A new tool to measure social inclusion to save lives

Work, housing and friendships are core factors to feeling included.

A new tool developed by researchers at Orygen to measure and monitor social inclusion was tested with more than 500 young people.

By identifying the early signs of isolation and loneliness, support can be provided to prevent more serious mental ill-health.

In mental healthcare, simple screening tools for common conditions like depression and anxiety make it possible to diagnose people quickly and get help sooner.

A new tool developed at Orygen does the same, but for social inclusion: the F-SIM (Filia Social Inclusion Measure), developed by Dr Kate Filia and being presented in Hobart this week at the Society for Mental Health Research conference, could help to pinpoint the causes of isolation and social exclusion,

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$185 million investment to fast-track treatments for rare and ‘untreatable’ cancers

A private public partnership to strengthen Australia’s position at the forefront of the cancer treatment revolution.

Announced by the Australian Government at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research today.

Over the past decade, immunotherapy and other new treatments have transformed outcomes for thousands of Australians diagnosed with cancer. However, 46,000 Australians a year are diagnosed with cancers with limited treatment options.

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Single test for over 50 genetic diseases will cut diagnosis from decades to days

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  • A single DNA test has been developed that can screen a patient’s genome for over 50 genetic neurological and neuromuscular diseases such as Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophies and fragile X syndrome.
  • The new test avoids a ‘diagnostic odyssey’ for patients that can take decades.
  • The team, from Australia, UK and Israel, has shown, in a paper today in Science Advances that the test is accurate. They are now working on validations to make it available in pathology labs.
  • They expect it to be standard in global pathology labs within five years.

A new DNA test, developed by researchers at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney and collaborators from Australia, UK and Israel, has been shown to identify a range of hard-to-diagnose neurological and neuromuscular genetic diseases quicker and more-accurately than existing tests.

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What ingredients went into the galactic blender to create the Milky Way?

Our galaxy is a giant ‘smoothie’ of blended stars and gas but a new study tells us where the components came from

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In its early days, the Milky Way was like a giant smoothie, as if galaxies consisting of billions of stars, and an enormous amount of gas had been thrown together into a gigantic blender. But a new study picks apart this mixture by analysing individual stars to identify which originated inside the galaxy and which began life outside.

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Securing global net zero: universities have solutions

  • Zero carbon flight is possible, and could be ready by 2030 (Leeds University)
  • Where should I plant my grapes in 2100? (University of Tasmania)
  • Understanding wildfire management with virtual reality projections (Penn State)
  • Floods, droughts, heatwaves, polar vortexes – warming oceans drive extreme weather (University of Bergen)
  • Understanding heat uptake across the Southern Ocean (UNSW Sydney)
  • Open-source solutions for direct carbon capture (NYU)
  • What does ‘net zero’ mean if you don’t have electricity? (University of Southampton)

Speakers available from universities across the world available for interview.

The 50 universities across the world who form the International Universities Climate Alliance are all working on ways we can secure global net zero. The Alliance was established in April 2020 and is convened by the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

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Where are the world’s women in physics?

Highlights from the 7th IUPAP Conference on Women in Physics

14 July 2021

  • Women are less likely to have access to essential career resources
  • Women are massively under-represented in physics journals
  • Only 18 per cent of Australian STEM professors are women.

“On the first day of the 7th IUPAP Conference on Women in Physics we heard about the scale of the challenge to redress gender inequity in physics. As the conference progresses we hope to learn more about how we can work together to improve the situation for women in physics,” said Professor Sarah Maddison, conference co-chair.

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