Sticky ear solved; sea squirts for IVF; epilepsy in Nature; Eureka finalists

Bulletins, Media bulletins

Middle ear infections are one of the commonest childhood complaints. Ear infections and the sleepless nights that they cause for children and their parents are being tackled by researchers in Perth who are trialling a new treatment.

How can sea squirts help us understand IVF? A Sydney researcher has shown that the influence of sperm extends well beyond the moment of conception. It seems the slower sperm produced stronger, fitter and longer living larvae.

Is there a Eureka finalist near you? Read on to find out, and call us if you’d like to chat with them. $170,000 will be awarded in 17 prize categories, from research to commercialisation, journalism to education on September 4.

Have you seen the 10 stunning images selected as finalists in the New Scientist Eureka Prize for Science Photography. They’re available now for publication – ask us for high res versions.

And finally: pathways to new epilepsy treatments. A big paper is coming out in Nature on Monday with a 3 am embargo – a consortium led by Melbourne and US scientists will reveal their research into underlying causes of epilepsy.

Full details in the AusSMC embargo list today or email me for a bit more detail – it’s not our story but we can pass you on. If you’re not on the AusSMC embargo list, you can get in touch at It’s a great resource for covering breaking science news.

To line up interviews, or for more details on any of these stories, please contact me (Niall) on or 03 9398 1416.

Sticky ear mystery solved: trial of treatment underway in Perth

Embargo: tonight, Friday 8 August, 7pm

Perth researchers are planning to end the sleepless nights that families face when ear infections strike and won’t go away. Their research could reduce the need for antibiotics and surgery, and help tackle hearing loss in indigenous communities.

Dr Ruth Thornton and her research team at the University of Western Australia have discovered that sticky nets of DNA hide the bacteria in the ears of kids with recurrent middle-ear infections, where they evade antibiotic treatment by creating impenetrable slimy biofilms.

It is similar to what happens in the lungs of people with cystic fibrosis, where a treatment known as Dornase alfa is used to break this sticky DNA up.

Ruth and her team are now trialling this treatment in the ears of children when they are having grommets put in and a study on the DNA net discovery was published in the online science journal Plos One in February.

For the full release, high res images, and to line up interviews:

The fastest sperm may not be best: Sydney sea squirts show that there’s more to fertilization and IVF than we thought

Embargo and press call: 10am, Wednesday 14 August

For sea squirts the key to a long and happy life is to be fertilized not by a fast sperm, but by one that stands the test of time, Dr Angela Crean, from the Evolution and Ecology Research Centre at the University of NSW, has found.

Her discovery, published in PLoS, shows for the first time that the influence of sperm extends well beyond the moment of conception. If further studies show the same effects in human sperm, the finding could change some of the assumptions currently deployed in IVF practice.

Angela’s research revealed a remarkable fact. Eggs penetrated within minutes by speedy sperm tended to be either non-viable, or produced larvae which died young. The strongest, fittest, longest lived sea squirts were those fertilised by sperm which swam for an hour before reaching the egg.

“This is surprising because it suggests that a sperm’s influence on offspring extends beyond just the DNA it carries,” said Angela, an ARC DECRA fellow.

For the full release, high res images, the PLoS paper and to line up interviews:

Australian Museum Eureka Prizes finalists announced

Father's RoleThe 2013 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes finalists have just been announced.

Congratulations to the 100 finalists who are competing for 17 prizes worth $170,000.

Finalists from every state are available now to chat about their work – and they’ll find out if they’ve won on Wednesday 4 September.

The 2013 Eureka Prizes finalists have discovered:

  • Better bulls emit less methane (Armidale)
  • How to use car tyres to make steel (Sydney/Newcastle)
  • The causes and effects of catastrophic firestorms (Sydney/Canberra)
  • How bats can help us treat deadly diseases (Geelong)

They’ve invented:

  • A hypodermic camera to guide surgeons (Perth)
  • A bionic eye to proof-of-concept stage (Melbourne/Sydney)
  • Nanotechnologies to deliver drugs to their targets (Melbourne)

They’ve revealed:

  • The sinister effects of micro-plastics in the oceans (Sydney)
  • How to personalise leukaemia therapy (Sydney)
  • How to slow the progression of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (Melbourne)
  • The mysteries of locust swarming (Sydney)

Details about all 2013 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes finalists are now online at

For media enquiries please contact the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes media team:

The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are the country’s most comprehensive national science awards, honouring excellence across the four categories of Research and Innovation, Leadership and Commercialisation, Science Communication and Journalism, and School Science.

And finally: top ten stunning science photographs for 2013

Ten stunning images have been highly commended (including three finalists) for the New Scientist Eureka Prize for Science Photography

See all the images online – and let us know if you’d like high res versions for publication.

The images showcase everything from cicadas to fluid mechanics. They are available for publication: contact AJ Epstein, Science in Public on or (03) 9398 1416 for high res versions

“Science is not just about deep insights and impressive data. It’s also beautiful and inspiring. The photographs entered into the New Scientist Eureka Prize for Science Photography illustrate science in all its beauty and wonder,” says Michael Slezak, Australasia Reporter, New Scientist.

The winner of the prize will be announced in the presence of 700 science, government, cultural and media leaders at Sydney Town Hall on Wednesday 4 September 2013.