medical research

Slipped discs: robot shows it’s not all bending and twisting

High res photos available below.  

Video of Dhara and the bending robot available here

Dhara hopes her work will lead to improved guidelines on repetitive and heavy lifting. Credit: Flinders University

Some slipped disc injuries might be caused by movements other than the commonly blamed bending and twisting, according to new research by South Australian engineers.

It’s a finding that will lead to a better understanding of the motions that put people at greatest risk of a slipped disc and help develop more robust guidelines for safe lifting.

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Overcoming knee pain with the help of a digital twin

Scientists use computer simulations of joint and muscle movements to teach us to exercise smarter

Image: Dr Pizzolato is making digital twins to help improve how people move in real life. Credit: Gold Coast Orthopaedic Research Alliance, Griffith University

Researchers have developed computer simulations of joint and muscle movements that can teach us how to exercise smarter and prevent knee pain and further damage.

One in five Australians over the age of 45 suffer from painful and debilitating osteoarthritis, with the knee being the most commonly affected joint.  

Dr Claudio Pizzolato from Griffith University is making computer avatars or ‘digital twins’ of individual patients to see how their muscles and joints work. [continue reading…]

Keeping our best young bioscience brains in Australia

Centenary Institute Lawrence Creative Prize to be announced, finalists from Melbourne and Sydney

The winner of the Centenary Institute Lawrence Creative Prize will be announced at 6.30 pm, Tuesday 12 November 2013, at a reception hosted by UBS in Sydney.

There are three finalists. On Tuesday we will find out who is the overall winner of the $25,000 prize. The two runners-up will each receive $5,000.

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Saving young lives by the million – Melbourne researcher wins $50,000 CSL Florey Medal

Professor Ruth Bishop in the Rotavirus lab (Credit: Stepping Stone Pictures)

Saving young lives by the million

Professor Ruth Bishop, 2013 CSL Florey Medallist

By their third birthday, just about every child in the world has had a rotavirus infection. Every day about 1200 children die from it; half a million children every year. That’s changing. We’re fighting back thanks to a discovery made in 1973 by a quiet Melbourne researcher—this year’s winner of the 2013 CSL Florey Medal.

That was when Ruth Bishop, Brian Ruck, Geoffrey Davidson and Ian Holmes at the Royal Children’s Hospital and the University of Melbourne’s microbiology department found a virus, now known as rotavirus. Until the middle of the last decade, it put about 10,000 Australian children in hospital each year with acute gastroenteritis. In the next decade, as a direct result of their research, millions of young lives will be saved.

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New immune cells hint at eczema cause

Centenary Logo

Sydney researchers have discovered a new type of immune cell in skin that plays a role in fighting off parasitic invaders such as ticks, mites, and worms, and could be linked to eczema and allergic skin diseases.

The team from the Immune Imaging and T cell Laboratories at the Centenary Institute worked with colleagues from SA Pathology in Adelaide, the Malaghan Institute in Wellington, New Zealand and the USA.

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Keeping our best young bioscience brains in Australia: Centenary Institute Lawrence Creative Prize

The winner of the Centenary Institute Lawrence Creative Prize will be announced at 12.30 pm, Thursday 15 November 2012, at a lunch at UBS in Sydney.

He will receive $25,000, and a glass trophy designed by Australian sculptor Nick Mount.

The 2012 finalists are:

  • Robert McLaughlin, a medical engineer from the University of Western Australia (UWA), who has developed an optical probe that fits inside a hypodermic needle and can help surgeons accurately determine the boundaries of breast cancer tumours.
  • Marc Pellegrini, from Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI), whose discoveries about how the body regulates its immune system are being applied to clinical trials of cancer vaccines and treatments for HIV and hepatitis.
  • Jian Yang, from the Diamantina Institute at the University of Queensland, who has solved a major puzzle of missing heritability by developing software and methods to determine the multiple genes involved in conditions such as schizophrenia, obesity and diabetes.

How galaxies grow up; turmeric could fight malaria; and the PM’s Science Prizes

A Sydney astronomer Amanda Bauer has discovered and studied a distant cluster of galaxies to find out how galaxies evolve and interact with their neighbours. Her work will help explain the fate of our own Milky Way.

This intergalactic yarn is our latest Fresh Science story. More next week.

Australia and India will work together to study the impact on cerebral malaria of the major ingredient of turmeric, curcumin.

Dr Saparna Pai from the Centenary Institute in Sydney is off to New Delhi for the study.

Centenary is also celebrating over $5 million in grants for research into cardiology, TB, aging and immunology.

And the Prime Minister’s Prizes are approaching – 31 October with a 5 pm embargo. Details if you need them will be available on embargo from tomorrow.

Turmeric could spice up malaria therapy

A Centenary researcher is off to New Delhi to study the impact on cerebral malaria of the major ingredient of turmeric, curcumin.

Dr Saparna Pai has been awarded an Australian Academy of Science Early-Career Australia-India Fellowship to investigate curcumin’s action on immune cells during malaria infection. The Fellowships were announced by the Academy during the visit to India of the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.

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Milk that protects against HIV

Melbourne researchers have developed cows’ milk that protects human cells from HIV.

The milk contains antibodies which defend against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The next step will be to develop it into a cream which women can apply to protect themselves from contracting HIV from sexual partners.

Melbourne University’s Dr Marit Kramski and colleagues found that using cows to produce HIV-inhibiting antibodies is cheaper than existing methods.

They worked with Australian biotechnology company Immuron Ltd to develop the milk. The scientists vaccinated pregnant cows with an HIV protein and studied the first milk that cows produced after giving birth.

The first milk, called the colostrum, is naturally packed with antibodies to protect the newborn calf from infections. The vaccinated cows produced HIV antibodies in their milk.

“We were able to harvest antibodies specific to the HIV surface protein from the milk,” said Marit, who is presenting her research this week as one of the winners of Fresh Science — a national program for early-career scientists.

“We have tested these antibodies and found in our laboratory experiments that they bind to HIV and that this inhibits the virus from infecting and entering human cells,” she said.

Cows cannot contract HIV. But their  immune systems develop antibodies against the foreign protein.

The HIV-inhibiting antibodies from cows’ milk will be developed into a cream called a microbicide that is applied into the vagina before and /or after sex to protect women from contracting sexually transmitted infections. Other microbicides are being developed around the world but the antibodies in this research are easier and cheaper to produce, providing a new HIV-prevention strategy.

“We hope that our anti-HIV milk antibodies will provide a user-friendly, female-controlled, safe and effective tool for the prevention of sexually acquired HIV infection,” Marit said.

“If proven effective in humans, it will empower women to protect themselves against HIV.”

About 30 million people are living with HIV globally and there is presently no effective vaccine for humans.The research was supported by the Australian Centre for HIV and Hepatitis Virology Research and the NHMRC.

Marit and her colleagues are now developing plans for animal and human studies.

Marit Kramski is one of 12 early career scientists unveiling their research to the public for the first time thanks to Fresh Science, a national program sponsored by the Australian Government.

An example of Marit’s work is online here: http://aac.asm.org/content/early/2012/05/30/AAC.00453-12.abstract

 

Marit Kramski analysing cells on a computer (Credit: Gregor Lichtfuss)

Marit Kramski in the lab

Marit Kramski describing her research in the time it takes a sparkler to burn. Credit: Thami Croeser

Marit Kramski, left, in a lab at The University of Melbourne with frozen milk containing HIV antibodies. Her colleagues Behnaz Heydarchi, middle, and Rob Center, right are pictured with her.