All posts by Tony Crawshaw

China visit by Centre researcher

16 May 2017:

On a recent trip to China, CNBP Research Fellow A/Prof Guozhen Liu undertook a number of visits and talks, discussing her advanced sensing, nano-particle and bio-imaging work. This included:

5 May-8 May: Attendance at the International Congress on Analytical Sciences 2017 (ICAS2017) at Kaikou, China. Here Guozhen gave an oral presentation with the title “Engineering reduced graphen oxides towards a label-free electrochemical immunosensor for detection of tumor necrosis factor-alpha.”

11 May: Guozhen gave an invited talk titled, “Nanotools for cytokine monitoring in neuroscience” at Prof Zhihong Zhang’s research team at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan. Prof Zhang is one of CNBP’s Partner Investigators at HUST.

13-14 May: Guozhen provided a keynote speech, titled, “An optical fibre based ex-vivo device for detection of cytokines” at the 2nd International Congress on Biomedical Imaging and Signal Processing (ICBISP 2017) at Wuhan.

Below: A/Prof Guozhen Liu (right) visiting CNBP Partner Investigator Prof Zhihong Zhang.

 

Maximizing particle concentration

28 April 2017:

A new paper from CNBP researchers reports on an improvement to deterministic lateral displacement arrays, which allows for higher particle concentration enhancement. The work has just been published in the journal ‘Biomicrofluidics’ and is accessible online.

Journal: Biomicrofluidics.

Title: Maximizing particle concentration in deterministic lateral displacement arrays.

Authors: Shilun Feng, Alison M. Skelley, Ayad G. Anwer (pictured top left), Guozhen Liu and David W. Inglis.

Abstract: We present an improvement to deterministic lateral displacement arrays, which allows higher particle concentration enhancement. We correct and extend previous equations to a mirror-symmetric boundary. This approach allows particles to be concentrated into a central channel, no wider than the surrounding gaps, thereby maximizing the particle enrichment. The resulting flow patterns were, for the first time, experimentally measured. The performance of the device with hard micro-spheres and cells was investigated. The observed flow patterns show important differences from our model and from an ideal pattern. The 18 μm gap device showed 11-fold enrichment of 7 μm particles and nearly perfect enrichment—of more than 50-fold—for 10 μm particles and Jurkat cells. This work shows a clear path to achieve higher-than-ever particle concentration enhancement in a deterministic microfluidic separation system.

 

Light-triggerable liposomes

21 April 2017:

A new paper from CNBP researchers (lead author Wenjie Chen pictured) reports on the design of a new light-triggerable liposome. The work has just been published in the journal ‘Molecular Therapy: Nucleic Acid’ and is accessible online.

Journal: Molecular Therapy: Nucleic Acid.

Title: Light-triggerable liposomes for enhanced endo/lysosomal escape and gene silencing in PC12 cells.

Authors: Wenjie Chen, Wei Deng, Ewa M. Goldys.

Abstract: Liposomes are an effective gene/drug delivery system, widely used in biomedical applications including gene therapy and chemotherapy. Here we designed a photo-responsive liposome (lipVP) loaded with a photosensitizer verteporfin (VP). This photosensitizer is clinically approved for photodynamic therapy (PDT). LipVP was employed as a DNA carrier for pituitary adenylyl cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP) receptor 1 (PAC1R) gene knockdown in PC12 cells. This has been done by incorporating PAC1R antisense oligonucleotides inside the lipVP cavity. Cells which have taken up the lipVP were exposed to light from a UV light source. As a result of this exposure, reactive oxygen species (ROS) were generated from VP, destabilising the endo/lysosomal membranes and enhancing the liposomal release of antisense DNA into the cytoplasm. Endo/lysosomal escape of DNA was documented at different time points based on quantitative analysis of colocalization between fluorescently labelled DNA and endo/lysosomes. The released antisense oligonucleotides were found to silence PAC1R mRNA. The efficiency of this photo-induced gene silencing was demonstrated by a 74 ± 5% decrease in PAC1R fluorescence intensity. Following the light-induced DNA transfer into cells, cell differentiation with exposure to two kinds of PACAP peptides was observed to determine the cell phenotypic change after PAC1R gene knockdown.

Social media for research engagement

21 April 2017:

CNBP’s Dr Hannah Brown (pictured), together with Prof Ben Mol, the University of Adelaide and Melinda Cruz, CEO and Founder of Miracle Babies Foundation, believe that social media interaction and scientific activity should go hand-in-hand.

They argue that increased social engagement by scientists with collaborators, the media, governing and funding bodies, government and consumers underlies research success.

Check out their latest written piece, ‘Social media is essential for research engagement‘ in BJOG, an International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

New PhD candidate Yuan Qi Yeoh

30 March 2017:

CNBP welcomes its latest PhD candidate Yuan Qi Yeoh who is working on controlling the structure and activity of an antimicrobial peptide using an azobenzene photoswitch.

Supervised by CNBP Chief Investigator Prof Andrew Abell at the University of Adelaide, Yuan Qi will design and synthesise peptides that mimic Gramicidin S, incorporating azobenzene to turn antimicrobial activity on and off when desired.

Tested will be the effectiveness of the synthetic peptidomimetics by biological assays against S. aureus and E. coli – this recognising the structure-activity relationship of the synthetic peptidomimetics against bacteria.

Previously, Yuan Qi completed an Honours Degree at the University of Adelaide under the guidance of Prof Abell with her thesis titled, “Controlling the Conformation of a Modified Gramicidin S Cyclic Peptidomimetic with an Azobenzene Photoswitch.”

She has also participated in summer research (synthesising an azobenzene photoswitch) supervised by both Prof. Andrew Abell and CNBP Research Fellow Dr. Jingxian Yu.

Welcome to the CNBP team Yuan Qi!

 

Nanoscale sensor to spot disease

28 March 2017:

A new nanoscale sensor has been developed that can help detect cytokines – molecules that play a critical role in cellular response to infection, inflammation, trauma and disease.

Reported in the science journal ‘Nanoscale’, the sensor consists of a modified graphene quantum dot (or GQD) which has been designed by researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP). It allows ultra-small amounts of cytokines to be identified in and around cells, with the work potentially opening up an exciting new avenue of biomedical research.

“Cytokines are molecules secreted by the cells of the immune system,” explains lead CNBP project scientist Guozhen Liu, Associate Professor at Macquarie University.

“The release of certain cytokines by the body is frequently symptomatic of a disease or health related issue, such as arthritis, inflammatory disorder or even cancer. Consequently, monitoring cytokine secretions at the cellular and sub-cellular level, has enormous value in our understanding of basic physiology and how the body is actually working.”

Traditionally, cytokine molecules have been extremely hard to measure and quantify.

“This has been due to their small size and their dynamic and transient nature,” says A/Prof Liu.

“What we’ve been able to do is to design and make a sensor that is so small that it can easily penetrate inside cells. Moreover, unlike other sensors it only responds when the cytokine is present. To this aim we have connected GQDs to cytokine sensing DNA molecules known as aptamers.”

Professor at Macquarie University, Ewa Goldys, Deputy Director at the Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics, also on the project team, noted that the detection of cytokines in body fluids, cells, tissues and organisms was attracting considerable attention in the biomedical research field. “Being able to track cytokine levels in real time opens new ways to monitor body physiology. This will ultimately lead to new diagnostic tools and new ways of treatment monitoring.”

Goldys believes that the innovative GQD sensing technology developed by the CNBP has potential widespread applications, due to the universal nature of the sensor design.

“We see these graphene quantum dot sensors as being excellent candidates for many other biomedical applications such as DNA and protein analysis, intracellular tracking as well as for monitoring of other cell secreted products in the body.”

Although still some years away from clinical study Goldys and Liu are both excited by the research. “Operating at the nanoscale we’re creating entirely new windows into the body and will gain valuable insights into the body, health, wellbeing and disease,” concludes Goldys.

RESEARCH PAPER:
http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2017/nr/c6nr09381g#!divAbstract

Below: CNBP Researcher A/Prof Guozhen Liu. Click on the image to access image download.

CNBP engages with Shanxi Province

26 March 2017:

CNBP Director Prof Mark Hutchinson has showcased CNBP science to the Vice Governor of Shanxi Province together with his Heads of Departments (Agriculture, Science and Technology and Foreign Affairs) who were visiting the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Government on March 26th, 2017.

The visit, a result of the University of Adelaide and its seven year relationship with the Province, sees the University undertaking increasing work there, with both industry and Government, primarily in the areas of agriculture and functional food.

It is likely that CNBP products and the potential of the Centre will be further demonstrated in May, when  a delegation from South Australia will go to Shanxi Province to engage with industry.

CNBP talks to the pollies at SmP

24 March 2017:

A chance to talk science with Australian politicians and policy influencers was an opportunity seized by CNBP with Centre Investigator Prof Heike Ebendorff-Heidepriem and Centre Research Fellow Dr Andrew Care both in attendance at the annual ‘Science meets Parliament’ (SmP) event, Canberra, 21-22 March, 2017.

Established by Science and Technology Australia, SmP provides 200 scientists with a unique professional development opportunity to get a clear sense of the competing rationalities of science, politics and public policy. The two-day gathering also includes a day at Parliament House, where delegates get the chance to meet privately with parliamentarians.

As part of this activity, Prof Ebendorff-Heidepriem met with Senator Chris Back and Senator Chris Ketter, and also spoke with Shadow Minister of Defence, Richard Marles. In addition, she spoke with many researchers and entrepreneurs from both the University and industry sectors.

“Improving collaboration between the research community and industry was a hot topic in many of the discussions that I had”, said Heike. “Particularly in my meeting with Senator Chris Back. People were also extremely excited about our approach, in using fibres and light to create exciting new windows into the body.”

CNBP’s Dr Andrew Care met with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s advisor, discussing gender equality and early education for STEM and also touching on ECR opportunities and improving research and industry ties. He also met MP Adam Bandt, the Greens spokesperson for science.

“Overall it was an extremely rewarding experience,” says Andrew. “Attending SmP gave me the opportunity to explore the political process and to network with many other researchers from academia, industry, and governance. It was fantastic to see science and innovation so high on the government’s agenda.”

A full round up from both days of SmP can be found on the STA web site – Day 1 and Day 2.

Below – MP Adam Bandt and CNBP’s Dr Andrew Care.

 

VC PhD scholarship awarded

23 March 2017:

Emma Wilson from the RMIT University node of the Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics has recently had her scholarship upgraded to a Vice-Chancellor’s PhD Scholarship which is the most prestigious scholarship available at RMIT.

These scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic excellence and research potential.

Emma will be studying how the surface properties of nanodiamonds effect their fluorescent emission for applications in neuronal (pain-related) biological research.