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Worm spit heals then kills; stem cell snapshot and other stories

Cairns scientists have discovered a wound-healing and cancer-causing hormone in the spit of a worm.

The worm lives in the livers of over nine million people and infects adventurous Australian tourists. The Southeast Asian liver fluke munches through the liver repairing the damage as it goes. But after many years of infection it can cause liver cancer and kills 20,000 people each year in Thailand alone.

Now James Cook University researcher Dr Michael Smout has found that a protein in the spit also sends wound-healing messages.

Michael has taken out the inaugural FameLab Australia competition with his discovery. This Friday he’ll pack up his props (a teddy bear, oversized worm and stuffed liver) and jet off to the UK to represent Australia at the International FameLab final.

But he’s available to do some interviews at home beforehand. More below.

Also this week, the National Stem Cell Foundation has released its who’s who of Australian stem cell research – a valuable resource for any journo in need of a stem cells expert at short notice. Next week they’ll also be announcing the winners of their inaugural Metcalf Prizes for stem cell research. Drop me a line if you want a heads up.

Next week, American theoretical physicist and best-selling author Michio Kaku will be in Australia to talk about string theory, the multiverse and how we could re-engineer the brain. And The Science of Doctor Who comes to Adelaide this week.

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We’re hiring: project manager/science publicist

We’re looking for a project manager and/or science publicist with 3 to 5 years’ experience to join our team at Science in Public.

Ideally, we’d like someone who’s got runs on the board getting science, health, or environment stories into the public domain. The more knowledge you have of the science world in Australia the better.

You must be able to write fluently and accurately, manage a number of projects at once, and work to tight deadlines. A solid grounding in tools such as WordPress, Twitter and MailChimp would also be useful.

The position is full-time or near full-time and hours are flexible. Pay will be negotiated based on experience and hours can be negotiated to be family-friendly.

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How our gut’s immune cells see invaders; what’s happening to WA’s coral reefs?

This morning Monash, Melbourne, and UQ have a cracking paper in Nature announcing the discovery of a key that wakes up a poorly understood part of our immune system.

It’s the next step for the research which last year won the Eureka Prize for Scientific Research.

Two years ago they discovered that ‘mystery’ immune cells in our gut detect invaders by reacting to components of vitamin B that are only made by certain bacteria and fungi. Now they have a molecular key to turn this off and on.
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More exciting than the law, more glamorous than accounting…

asta logo - smallAustralia’s Future: 28 creative careers for adventurous young people in science, technology, engineering and mathematics

Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubb this morning launched Australia’s Future, a free magazine featuring 28 people and the very different journeys they’ve taken from their studies in science and maths, in the Mural Hall at Parliament House, Canberra.

Dr Liz New, a chemist at the University of Sydney, reckons she’s got the best job anyone could have.

“We have this idea that scientists are the ones who perform best in school or have a focused personality,” says Liz. “For me, the scientific personality is simply anyone who is curious enough to ask questions.”

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Evolution stuck in slime for a billion years

UTAS logo

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Tasmanian researchers have revealed ancient conditions that almost ended life on Earth, using a new technique they developed to hunt for mineral deposits.

The first life developed in the ancient oceans around 3.6 billion years ago, but then nothing much happened. Life remained as little more than a layer of slime for a billion years. Suddenly, 550 million years ago, evolution burst back into action – and here we are today. So what was the hold-up during those ‘boring billion’ years?

According to University of Tasmania geologist Professor Ross Large and his international team, the key was a lack of oxygen and nutrient elements, which placed evolution in a precarious position. “During that billion years, oxygen levels declined and the oceans were losing the ingredients needed for life to develop into more complex organisms.”

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Volunteers continue search for father and son pilots missing in Mozambique

South African pilots Bryan and Robert Simms have been missing since 28 October, when the light aircraft they were ferrying had to make an emergency landing in Mozambique and disappeared.

Their family have filed a missing persons report and believe that the missing pilots made an emergency landing in or near the Gorongosa National Park. A reward has also been offered to locals who can identify the location of the plane. [continue reading…]

PM’s science prizes to be announced next week

Next Wednesday evening, 31 October, the Prime Minister will announce the winners of the 2012 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science at a dinner in the Great Hall of Parliament House, Canberra.

We have password-protected media kits for the five winners available online here.

There will be a media briefing in the Great Hall at noon on Wednesday 31 October, all details of the prize winners are under a strict embargo of 5pm on Wednesday 31 October.

If you need to know in advance who the winners are, call Niall Byrne on 0417 131 977 or email niall@scienceinpublic.com.au.

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PM's science prizes to be announced next week

Next Wednesday evening, 31 October, the Prime Minister will announce the winners of the 2012 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science at a dinner in the Great Hall of Parliament House, Canberra.

We have password-protected media kits for the five winners available online here.

There will be a media briefing in the Great Hall at noon on Wednesday 31 October, all details of the prize winners are under a strict embargo of 5pm on Wednesday 31 October.

If you need to know in advance who the winners are, call Niall Byrne on 0417 131 977 or email niall@scienceinpublic.com.au.

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The good, the bad and chronic hepatitis

Today is World Hepatitis Day and it brings good news and bad news.
The bad news is that hepatitis is still a serious condition which affects nearly 400,000 Australians putting them on a course to serious liver disease.

“The good news is that treatment is now less invasive, of shorter duration, much more effective—and diagnosis doesn’t involve humongous needles,” says Dr Nick Shackel from the Centenary Institute.

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Observation of a New Particle with a Mass of 125 GeV

In a joint seminar today at CERN and the “ICHEP 2012” conference[1] in Melbourne, researchers of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) presented their preliminary results on the search for the standard model (SM) Higgs boson in their data recorded up to June 2012.

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$2 billion telescope good for Africa, Australia and the world

Looking for life, dark energy and the beginning of time

Southern Africa, Australia and NZ are to share the Square Kilometre Array – a giant radio telescope that will consist of thousands of separate radio dishes and other antennae spread across an area the size of a continent.

We’ve pulled together links to our stories and to other sites about SKA. Feel free to use our stories as raw material for your own accounts. [continue reading…]

Don’t send your recycled glasses to developing countries, it costs twice as much as giving them ready-made glasses

Dr David Wilson, Research Manager Asia-Pacific, International Centre for Eyecare Education  Photo courtesy of International Centre for Eyecare Education

You might feel good sending your old reading glasses to a developing country. But a recent international study, led by the International Centre for Eyecare Education (ICEE), a collaborating partner in the Vision CRC, in Sydney, suggests it is far better to give $10 for an eye examination and a new pair of glasses if you want to help someone in desperate need, and it is far better for building capacity in these communities.

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Science in Charlie Teo’s Australia Day address

In his Australia Day address, noted brain surgeon Charlie Teo said he was ashamed to admit to an American friend, who had received a US$50 million grant in the US to study brain cancer, that he works with just AU$150,000 over three years from the Australian government.

Teo says we need another AIS – one for sport, one for science.

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Science in Charlie Teo's Australia Day address

In his Australia Day address, noted brain surgeon Charlie Teo said he was ashamed to admit to an American friend, who had received a US$50 million grant in the US to study brain cancer, that he works with just AU$150,000 over three years from the Australian government.

Teo says we need another AIS – one for sport, one for science.

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How does our intelligence change through life

Nature paper reveals the genetic influence on our IQ as we age

Embargo 6 am AEST, Thursday 19 January 2012

Issued for the Queensland Brain Institute, University of Queensland.

Researchers from Brisbane, Edinburgh and Aberdeen have revisited about 2,000 people who had intelligence tests in 1932 or1947, and shown that genetic factors may account for about a quarter of the changes in intelligence over their lives.
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Mini-strokes provide health warning

Patients who suffer stroke-like attacks can have mortality rates 20 per cent higher than the general population, new research finds, leading to calls for better stroke prevention strategies for those who experience a transient ischemic attack (TIA). In one of the largest studies of its kind ever conducted, more than 20,000 adults hospitalised in New South Wales between 2000-2007 with a TIA were compared against the general population for mortality rates.

Dr Melina Gattellari, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, UNSW

Stroke

http://www.unsw.edu.au/news/pad/articles/2011/nov/mini_strokes.html