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A patented treatment could restore eyesight for millions of sufferers of corneal disease. The University of Melbourne–led team of researchers have grown corneal cells on a layer of film that can be implanted in the eye to help the cornea heal itself. They have successfully restored vision in animal trials and are aiming to move […]

Fresh Science is a national competition helping early-career researchers find, and then share, their stories of discovery.

The program takes up-and-coming researchers with no media experience and turns them into spokespeople for science, giving them a taste of life in the limelight, with a day of media training and a public event in their home state.

Fresh Science 2016 was held in Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and NSW.

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The secret life of gut bacteria

21 September 2016

in 2016, Vic

Jaclyn Pearson presenting at Fresh Science. Credit: Tom Rayner

Jaclyn Pearson presenting at Fresh Science. Credit: Tom Rayner

Melbourne researchers have shown how some gut bacteria use a needle-like system, like a syringe, to poke into the cells in our guts and pump in proteins that silence our immune system, leaving it unable to fight these bugs off.

Jaclyn Pearson from the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity at the University of Melbourne thinks this improved understanding of how gut bacteria, like Salmonella and E. coli, make us sick could lead to smarter and more effective treatments, and save lives.

Our immune system is complicated. Bacterial infections of the gut kill five to six million kids globally every year. But we still don’t really understand how those bacteria work.

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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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