A researcher at Flinders University has developed a simple urine test that gives a quantitative measure of the severity of motor neurone disease.


Stephanie Shepheard

Up until now, the search for effective treatments has been hampered by the lack of direct measurement techniques. Researchers have depended on a questionnaire that asks how well the patient can perform everyday tasks.

“I found a protein in urine that is elevated in motor neurone disease, and which increases as the disease progresses,” says researcher Stephanie Shepheard.

Working in both human and animal motor neurone disease, Stephanie identified that the protein p75NTRECD can easily be measured in urine, and provides a direct assessment of disease severity.

“This protein could allow doctors to monitor damage in motor neurone disease in a more specific way,” says Stephanie.

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Pain and diarrhoea are some of the devastating side-effects of cancer treatment.

Hannah Wardill

Hannah Wardill

New research from the University of Adelaide has now shown that this is a result of an exaggerated immune response; and could be overcome by targeting the immune system.

“I identified that a gut receptor called TLR4 drives the heightened immune response,” says researcher Hannah Wardill.

“Deletion of TLR4 in mice provides protection, lowering the severity and duration of diarrhoea and reducing chemotherapy-induced pain.”

The results support existing evidence linking gut health with nerve function and sensation, and are consistent with the experiences of many who’ve been through cancer treatment.

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The chance detection of one large family’s predisposition to small eyes has given Flinders University researcher Mona Awadalla a new angle on the disease glaucoma.

Are small eyes related to glaucoma? Credit: istockphoto

Are small eyes related to glaucoma? Credit: istockphoto

Mona and her colleagues identified a new gene mutation that leads to reduced eyeball size, which led to glaucoma in 16 members of one family.

Known as TMEM98, the gene codes for a protein found in several parts of the eye.

“We think this protein plays a role in eye growth,” explains Mona. “We’re now screening other families with inherited small eyes – a condition known as nanophthalmos – to see if the mutation is more common.”

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