biology

Andrew Bulmer pic

A link between a liver compound and cholesterol may provide a cheap and easy way to predict heart disease and heart attack, Queensland scientists have found.

Dr Andrew Bulmer and his team from Griffith Health Institute at Griffith University have demonstrated that higher levels of bilirubin, a compound produced by the liver, is related to lower levels of cholesterol, which is indicated in heart disease when it is high.

“Bilirubin, therefore, represents a ‘biomarker’, something we can measure to assist in predicting heart disease and heart attack,” says Andrew.

“Measurement of bilirubin is a cheap test and is routinely conducted for other purposes. Therefore, this biomarker could be rapidly adopted to inform Australians and extend their lives,” he says.

With an accurate method for heart disease prediction, doctors could identify at-risk individuals very early in their lives and reduce the possibility of heart disease by prescribing behavioural or drug-based treatments.

“Clearly, this information has the potential to save lives,” says Andrew.

Heart disease claims the lives of more than 22000 Australians every year and is the leading cause of death in Australia. It also costs the country more than $5 billion a year to treat and manage.

Queensland State Finalist: Andrew Bulmer, Griffith University

Two thymus glands fast-track immune defences

Baby wallaby photos available

Until now, it was a mystery why many marsupials have two thymuses—key organs in the immune system—instead of the one typical of other mammals. Now postdoctoral researcher Dr Emily Wong from the University of Sydney and her colleagues have found that the two organs are identical, which suggests why they are there. [click to continue…]

The human body incorporates multiple fail-safe mechanisms to protect it against the “friendly fire” from its immune system known as autoimmune disease, Charis Teh and colleagues at the John Curtin School of Medical Research (JCSMR) at the Australian National University have found.

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Cell death genes essential for cancer therapy identified.


New research has uncovered why certain cancers don’t respond to conventional chemotherapy, highlighting the need to match treatments to cancers better. [click to continue…]


HIV can hide out in the brain, protected from the immune system and antiviral drugs, Dr Lachlan Gray and his colleagues at Monash University and the Burnet Institute have found. [click to continue…]

Samurai of the sea

9 June 2011

in 2011

SawfishWhat sawfish really do with their saw

Scientists thought that sawfish used their saw to probe the sea bottom for food.  But a Cairns researcher has found that these large (5 metres or more) and endangered fish actually use the saw to locate and dismember free-swimming fish – using a sixth sense that detects electric fields. She’s in Melbourne this week as a winner of Fresh Science. [click to continue…]

New genus of bugs discovered at WA alumina refinery

Previously unknown species of naturally-occurring bacteria have the potential to save the alumina and aluminium industries millions of dollars while helping to reduce their impact on the environment, microbiologist Naomi McSweeney has found in a collaborative project between Alcoa of Australia, CSIRO and the University of Western Australia. [click to continue…]

Feeding weeds fertiliser sounds like exactly the wrong thing, if you want to get rid of them, but Jennifer Firn of CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems has been doing just that—to control African lovegrass, an invasive species of rangelands in every Australian state.

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A biotechnologist from the South Australian Research and Development Institute has taken using “everything but the pig’s squeal” to new lengths. Through clever recycling of pig waste, Andrew Ward has been able to produce feed for aquaculture, water for irrigation, and methane for energy. His ‘waste food chain’ can be applied to breweries, wineries and any system producing organic waste. [click to continue…]

We are pleased to announce the Fresh Scientists of 2010:

  • Peter Domachuk, School of Physics, University of Sydney
  • Naomi McSweeney, School of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Western Australia
  • Andrew Dowdy, Bureau of Meteorology
  • Julien Ridoux, Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, The University of Melbourne
  • Bridget Murphy, School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney
  • Dave Ackland, Department of Mechanical Engineering, The University of Melbourne
  • Colin Scholes, CRC for Greenhouse Gas Technologies
  • Bianca van Lierop, School of Chemistry, Monash University
  • Jason Du, CRC for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment
  • David Floyd, Anglo-Australian Observatory /The University of Melbourne
  • Nasrin Ghouchi Eskandar, Ian Wark Research Institute, University of South Australia
  • Rylie Green, Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering, University of New South Wales
  • Jennifer Firn, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems
  • Natalia Galin, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Science, University of Tasmania
  • Andrew Ward, South Australian Research and Development Institute
  • Jacek Jasieniak, CSIRO Molecular and Health Technologies

More information on the 2010 Fresh Scientists will be available in the coming weeks.

tropical_rock_lobster2A team of Queensland researchers have discovered that lobsters, prawns and other crustaceans have evolved a unique way of making colours: making the complex patterns appreciated by biologists and connoisseurs of seafood.

Their work will help with conservation, aquaculture and may even lead to a new food colourant. And all the colours come from just one molecule.

The colour of seafood is directly linked to its acceptability as food. Highly coloured lobsters and prawns attract a premium price. And for the crustaceans themselves, it’s a matter of survival. [click to continue…]

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Sophie Bestley catching tuna, photo credit Adam Watkins

Sophie Bestley catching tuna, photo credit Thor Carter, CSIRO

Issued on World Oceans Day

Southern bluefin tuna can’t even have a quiet snack without CSIRO researchers knowing. They’ve developed a way of tracking when the tuna feed and also where, at what depth, and the temperature of the surrounding water.

It’s the first time anyone has been able to observe the long term feeding habits of migratory fishes directly and the information is transforming our understanding of these highly sought after ‘Porsches of the sea’.

Dr Sophie Bestley and her colleagues at CSIRO’s Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship surgically implant miniaturised electronic “data-storage” tags into juvenile fishes off the coast of southern Australia. [click to continue…]

Dr Fiona Hogan is DNA fingerprinting Australian owls with the help of feathers and a keen public.

Her work is transforming our understanding of the night life of owls, normally notoriously secretive.

From a single feather, this Deakin University researcher can determine the species, sex, and identity of individual birds. She has already found a pair of powerful owls who have mated together for at least 10 consecutive years, and that those breeding in urban areas are typically more closely related than those which breed in the bush. [click to continue…]

Bilbies and bettongs-the desert forms of bandicoots and rat-kangaroos-can bring degraded desert landscape back to life, a new study at the University of New South Wales has found. [click to continue…]

The world’s fastest growing abalone—the tropical donkey’s ear abalone, Haliotis asinina—can be bred to grow rapidly and reliably for aquaculture, Queensland biologists have found. And that makes it potentially a high value alternative crop for struggling prawn farmers. [click to continue…]

Why don’t elephants (and humans) have thousands of little babies instead of one big one?

Sydney researchers have discovered and modelled the key factors responsible for offspring and family size.

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