medical research

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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Spinal cord injury can leave the sufferer with life-changing disabilities including paralysis, reduced bowel and bladder control, loss of sexual ability, and chronic pain.

Anna Leonard

Anna Leonard

In a world first, researchers from the University of Adelaide have found that after a spinal cord injury, pressure builds up in the spinal cord, peaking three days after the accident.

But because the spinal cord is encased within the spinal column, there is no space to swell and that’s where the damage magnifies, leading to the disability.

“If we can allow the spinal cord to swell safely after a major accident, we can hopefully reduce the subsequent disability” explains Dr Anna Leonard who headed up the research.

Anna and her collaborators are currently investigating a process known as ‘duraplasty,’ in which the protective layer that surrounds the spinal cord is expanded.

“In addition to the trauma from the initial impact, swelling and increased pressure causes damage that has long-term implications,” Anna says.

“Allowing some nerve tissue to remain healthy could completely change the patient’s life.”

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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.

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