All posts by Tony Crawshaw

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.

Gold nanoparticles for bioimaging

22 March 2017:

A new publication from CNBP researchers (lead author Sandhya Clement pictured) reports on a more effective and less harmful gold-based nano-agent for bioimaging and photodynamic therapy treatment for deep tissue tumors.

The work has just been reported in the journal ‘Microchimica Acta ’ and is accessible online.

Journal: Microchimica Acta.

Title: Verteprofin conjugated to gold nanoparticles for fluorescent cellular bioimaging and X-ray mediated photodynamic therapy.

Authors: Sandhya Clement, Wenjie Chen, Ayad G. Anwer & Ewa M. Goldys.

Abstract: Photodynamic therapy (PDT) uses photosensitizers, light and molecular oxygen to generate cytotoxic reactive oxygen species. Its effectiveness is limited to <1 cm due to the limited penetration depth of light. The present study compares the PDT effectivity of the photosensitizer verteporfin (VP) conjugated to gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) (a) by using deeply penetrating X-rays administered in standard radiotherapy doses, and (b) by using red light (690 nm). VP was conjugated to AuNPs of around 12 nm size to enhance the interaction of ionizing radiation with PS. For comparison, VP also was directly exposed to X-rays. It is found that VP alone is stimulated by X-rays to generate singlet oxygen. The conjugate to AuNPs also generated a significant amount of singlet oxygen on irradiation with X-rays in comparison to illumination with 690-nm light. It is also found that the rate of singlet oxygen generation is amplified in case of AuNP-conjugated VP compared to VP alone. The performance of the AuNP-VP conjugate and of the VP alone was tested in Panc 1 cells. Their viability was impaired much more in these two scenarios than with the X-ray radiation only. This suggests excellent perspectives for PDT based on VP and with X-ray stimulation, both as a stand-alone photosensitizer and in Au-NP conjugates. Moreover, both VP and AuNP-VP conjugates show bright fluorescence in physiological media for excitation/emission wavelengths in the range of 405/690 nm; hence they can also be used for simultaneous bioimaging.

New PhD candidate Patrick Capon

21 March 2017:

CNBP welcomes its latest PhD candidate Patrick Capon who is working on fluorophore-nanodiamond hybrid sensors at the University of Adelaide.

Patrick has previously gained a BSc Degree (advanced – double chemistry major) from Adelaide University which was subsequently followed by a Master of Philosophy (chemistry) also at Adelaide University – his thesis entitled, “Incorporation of N-Heterocyclic Carbenes and their Precursors into Metal-Organic Frameworks.”

Supervised by CNBP Chief Investigator Prof. Andrew Abell, Patrick will be working largely within the CNBP Recognise Theme but also undertaking collaborations with the Discover Theme focused on the use of fluorophore-nanodiamond hybrid sensors to detect relevant reactive oxygen species and reactive nitrogen species.

Other collaboration activity will include work with CNBP Biological Challenge Leader Prof. Stephen Nicholls and his team, as well as with Illuminate Theme Leader Associate Prof. Brant Gibson and researcher Dr. Phillip Reineck.

Currently a recipient of the Norman and Patricia Polglase Scholarship, Patrick has also just been awarded the prestigous MF & MH Joyner Scholarship in Science from the University of Adelaide.

Welcome to the CNBP team Patrick!

New PhD student Kathryn Palasis

14 March 2017:

CNBP is happy to announce its newest PhD student Kathryn Palasis who is located at the University of Adelaide.

Kathryn who was was recently selected as the 2017 recipient of the Cedric Stanton Hicks Research Scholarship, will be working on switchable molecules and their applications in medicinal chemistry – with a particular emphasis on the design of photoswitchable protease inhibitors and the development of hypoxia-sensitive sensors and probes.

Graduating from Adelaide University with a Bachelor of Advanced Science (Double Chemistry Major) Kathryn previously won the G. M. Badger Prize for best weighted overall performance in courses of Level III Chemistry. This was followed by an Honours degree, also from Adelaide University where her thesis was titled “Synthesis and Activity of Switchable Azobenzene-Based Proteasome Inhibitors.”

As a PhD student, Kathryn will be working with her supervisor Prof Andrew Abell (CNBP Chief Investigator) on synthesising photoswitches of biological activity. She will also be collaborating with CNBP Investigator Robert McLaughlin (and his work on optical probes) and also Jeremy Thompson, CNBP Chief Investigator (and his work in the ‘Spark of Life’ theme).

Welcome to the CNBP team Kathryn!