New CNBP visiting researcher

Ashley Grant12 March 2018:

CNBP welcomes visiting researcher Ashley Grant to the University of Adelaide.

Ashley graduated magna cum laude with the highest university honors from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, USA with a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science with a minor in Psychology.

She will be based at the University of Adelaide for 12 months in the School of Medicine. While there she will be supervised by CNBP Director Prof Mark Hutchinson and will work in pain and alcohol research.

“I’m looking forward to being exposed to studies that focus on the molecular level of pain during my stay,” says Ashley.

Ashley is an avid yogi and blogger who loves the outdoors and exploration, meeting new people and trying new things. She has a strong past history in nonprofit work including being the Development Director for a nonprofit group called Camp Kesem which provides free summer camps for children who have been affected by a parent’s cancer.

“I think there is a lot of pain in this world, physically and emotionally, and my goal in life is to help alleviate some of the pain that can be managed,” says Ashley.

Aptasensors and cytokine detection

10 March 2018:

A new review paper summarising recent advances in aptamer-based biosensors with a specific focus on cytokine sensing has been published in the journal ‘Trends in Analytical Chemistry’. The paper includes CNBP coauthors Fuyuan Zhang, Ewa M.Goldys and Guozhen Liu (pictured).

Journal: Trends in Analytical Chemistry.

Publication title: Advances in Structure-Switching Aptasensing Towards Real Time Detection of Cytokines.

Authors: C. Cao, F. Zhang, E.M. Goldys, G. Liu.

Abstract: Structure-switching aptamer-based biosensors (aptasensors) provide a promising strategy for real-time or near real-time monitoring of analytes in vivo, owing to their reversibility, the versatility of methods available to engineer the aptamer switches, and the ability to tune their dynamic range. Monitoring cell-to-cell communication through cytokine secretions has enormous value in biology and medicine. However, cytokine detection is challenging due to the extremely dynamic, transient cytokine secretion process, and typically low abundances in physiological conditions. Here, we summarise recent advances in structure-switching signaling aptamer-based biosensing with specific focus on cytokine sensing. This Review begins with the survey of cytokine-specific aptamers followed by the designs of elegant sensing platforms based on structure-switching aptamers with different signal readouts such as optic, electrochemistry, and other types. We describe the strategies of signal amplification in aptasensors, and highlight future perspectives of aptasensors for real-time or near real-time detection of cytokines.

Extending depth of field of MOF imaging probes

2 March 2018:

A fully computational method for extending the depth of field of multicore optical fibers (MOF) imagers has been demonstrated by CNBP researchers in a new paper published in the journal ‘Optics Express’. The work shows that the depth of field can be more than doubled for certain spatial frequencies. Lead author on the publication is CNBP Research Fellow Dr Antony Orth from RMIT University.

Journal: Optics Express.

Publication title: Extended depth of field imaging through multicore optical fibers.

Authors: Antony Orth, Martin Ploschner, Ivan S. Maksymov, and Brant C. Gibson.

Abstract: Compact microendoscopes use multicore optical fibers (MOFs) to visualize hard-to-reach regions of the body. These devices typically have a large numerical aperture (NA) and are fixed-focus, leading to blurry images from a shallow depth of field with little focus control. In this work, we demonstrate a method to digitally adjust the collection aperture and therefore extend the depth of field of lensless MOF imaging probes. We show that the depth of field can be more than doubled for certain spatial frequencies, and observe a resolution enhancement of up to 78% at a distance of 50μm from the MOF facet. Our technique enables imaging of complex 3D objects at a comparable working distance to lensed MOFs, but without the requirement of lenses, scan units or transmission matrix calibration. Our approach is implemented in post processing and may be used to improve contrast in any microendoscopic probe utilizing a MOF and incoherent light.

New CNBP Outreach Chair announced

28 February 2018:

CNBP welcomes Dr Melanie Bagg, Director of Communications and Outreach, Australian Academy of Science as the new Chair of its Education and Outreach Advisory Committee.

The Committee provides guidance to the CNBP in marketing, public relations, communications and outreach with Melanie a PhD qualified medical research scientist and professional science communicator.

In this role, Melanie will bring her extensive knowledge of science communications and engagement strategies to the Centre. This includes prior experience gained as Manager of Business Development, Australian Science Media Centre (AusSMC) as well as various senior marketing and outreach roles at the University of Adelaide.

As Chair of the CNBP Education and Outreach Committee, Melanie will also be welcomed as a member of the CNBP Advisory Board. This high level Advisory group advises on the strategic directions for the Centre and monitors delivery of organisational outcomes.

“I’m extremely excited to be able to help CNBP continue its great work in communicating its scientific outcomes to a wide range of stakeholders including school students, the general public and media,” she said.

“The research coming out of the Centre is simply fantastic and I look forward to being involved in such an exciting and interdisciplinary scientific space.”

Below – Melanie Bagg joins Team CNBP. L to R – Kathy Nicholson (CNBP Chief Operating Officer), Melanie Bagg (Outreach Committee Chair), Prof Mark Hutchinson (CNBP Director) and Catriona Jackson (Advisory Board Chair).

Awards congratulations

28 February, 2018:

Congratulations to the following CNBP students and researchers who were successful at the annual ‘Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS) Awards’.

  • Jiawen Li (Joint IPAS Best ECR Paper)
  • Team: Patrick Capon, Malcolm Purdey, Benjamin Pullen and Andrew Abell (IPAS Best Transdisciplinary Paper)
  • Kathryn Palasis (Tanya Monro Best Student Oral Presentation)

 

Turn your phone into a microscope

20 February 2018:

Australian researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) have developed a 3D printable ‘clip-on’ that can turn any smartphone into a fully functional microscope.

“We’ve designed a simple mobile phone microscope that takes advantage of the integrated illumination available with nearly all smartphone cameras,” explains lead developer and CNBP Research Fellow at RMIT University, Dr Antony Orth.

You can read more about this exciting innovation at the leading technology web site Gizmodo.

 

 

Add-on clip turns smartphone into fully operational microscope

19 February 2018:

Australian researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) have developed a 3D printable ‘clip-on’ that can turn any smartphone into a fully functional microscope.

Reported in the research journal ‘Scientific Reports’, the smartphone microscope is powerful enough to visualise specimens as small as 1/200th of a millimetre, including microscopic organisms, animal and plant cells, blood cells, cell nuclei and more.

The clip-on technology is unique in that it requires no external power or light source to work yet offers high-powered microscopic performance in a robust and mobile handheld package.

And the researchers are making the technology freely available, sharing the 3D printing files publicly so anyone – from scientists to the scientifically curious – can turn their own smartphones into microscopes.

Lead developer and CNBP Research Fellow at RMIT University, Dr Antony Orth (pictured), believes the technology has immense potential as a scientific tool, one that is ideal for use in remote areas and for field-work where larger standalone microscopes are unavailable or impractical.

“We’ve designed a simple mobile phone microscope that takes advantage of the integrated illumination available with nearly all smartphone cameras,” says Dr Orth.

The clip-on has been engineered with internal illumination tunnels that guide light from the camera flash to illuminate the sample from behind. This overcomes issues seen with other microscopy-enabled mobile phone devices says Dr Orth.

“Almost all other phone-based microscopes use externally powered light sources while there’s a perfectly good flash on the phone itself,” he explains. “External LEDs and power sources can make these other systems surprisingly complex, bulky and difficult to assemble.”

“The beauty of our design is that the microscope is useable after one simple assembly step and requires no additional illumination optics, reducing significantly the cost and complexity of assembly. The clip-on is also able to be 3D printed making the device accessible to anyone with basic 3D printing capabilities.”

A further advantage noted by Dr Orth is that the clip-on enables both bright-field and dark-field microscopy techniques to be undertaken. Bright-field microscopy is where a specimen is observed on a bright background. Conversely, dark-field shows the specimen illuminated on a dark background.

“The added dark-field functionality lets us observe samples that are nearly invisible under conventional bright-field operation such as cells in media,” he says. “Having both capabilities in such a small device is extremely beneficial and increases the range of activity that the microscope can be successfully used for.”

Dr Orth believes the potential applications for the smartphone microscope are enormous.

“Our mobile microscope can be used as an inexpensive and portable tool for all types of on-site or remote area monitoring.”

“Water quality, blood samples, environmental observation, early disease detection and diagnosis—these are all areas where our technology can be easily used to good effect.”

Dr Orth sees significant benefit in developing countries for the device.

“Powerful microscopes can be few and far between in some regions,” says Dr Orth. “They’re often only found in larger population centres and not in remote or smaller communities. Yet their use in these areas can be essential—for determining water quality for drinking, through to analysing blood samples for parasites, or for disease diagnosis including malaria.”

To ensure that this technology can be utilised the world over, the files for the 3D printing of the microscope clip-on are being made freely available. They are available for download at the CNBP web site – http://cnbp.org.au/online-tools.

“Ideally, a phone microscope should take advantage of the integrated flash found in nearly every modern mobile, avoiding the need for external lighting and power. It should also be as compact and easy to assemble as possible. It is this design philosophy that inspired us in the development of this add-on clip,” says Dr Orth.

The new phone microscope has already been tested by Dr Orth and his CNBP colleagues in a number of areas, successfully visualizing samples ranging from cell culture, to zooplankton to live cattle semen in support of livestock fertility testing.

Below: Cells being viewed by an add-on clip that turns a smartphone into a fully operational microscope.

CNBP at ‘Science meets Parliament’

15 February 2018:

Four CNBP’ers attended ‘Science meets Parliament (SmP)’, a high profile political engagement STA event held in Canberra, 13-14th February, 2018.

The event gives science, technology, engineering and mathematics professionals the chance to build a profile for their important work in the Parliamentary environment. This includes meeting privately with politicians to discuss areas of research expertise, as well as unique professional development opportunities focused on clarifying competing rationalities of science, politics and public policy.

The four attendees were CNBP Chief Operating Officer Kathy Nicholson, CNBP PhD student Emma Wilson from RMIT University, CNBP researcher Dr Lindsay Parker (representing Macquarie University) and Dr Sanam Mustafa (The University of Adelaide and a Superstar of STEM, Afternoon Chair on Day One of the event).

Feedback from all representatives was extremely positive with all gaining from their SmP experience.

Emma Wilson met with Western Australian Senator Slade Brockman for her Parliamentarian meeting.

“I told him about my work exploring fluorescent nanodiamonds so we can develop them as tiny light beacons to see what is happening inside our cells,” she said.

“I explained that the CNBP has created an environment where I can explore the fundamentals of the material with an application in mind.”

A major highlight for Emma was getting to meet some of her STEM heroes.

“I had a chat with Australian of the Year Professor Michelle Simmons,” she said.

“We discussed gender balance and equity and the importance of having quality mentorship for creating better scientists. We also discussed the inflexibility of institutes when it comes to accommodating people, both men and women, with carer roles.”

CNBP’s Dr Lindsay Parker was enthusiastic about the SmP event too.

“I met with MP Karen Andrews, who has been a member of the House of Representatives since 2010, representing the Division of McPherson in Queensland,” she said.

“Karen is the Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills and also a co-chair of The Parliamentary Friends of Science. I explained to her how small the nanoscale is relative to things such as human hair and bacteria. I also mentioned some of the materials we work with in the Centre such as nanodiamonds, how they are fluorescent and why they are excellent nanoprobes for use in neuro-imaging.”

Lindsay continued, “I sat next to MP Craig Kelly at the Gala dinner – he’s in the House of Representatives for Hughes, New South Wales. I spoke to him about my neuroscience research and how hopefully one day we can better engineer anti-inflammatory drugs to target the correct cells with less side effects during chronic pain and Alzheimer’s. I mentioned how CNBP is an excellent multidisciplinary Centre linking biology, chemistry and physics. He asked questions about how the drugs work and when they would be ready for use in humans.”

Lindsay summed up, “All of the politicians, CEOs and organisation heads at SmP clearly recognised the need to continue to promote and improve opportunities for women in STEM industries. Senator Michaelia Cash gave a particularly inspirational and enthusiastic speech about this at the Gala dinner and I was impressed that both she and my matched MP Karen Andrews were genuinely interested in science research and improving STEM promotion as a great career in Australia.”

Below: CNBP’s Dr Lindsay Parker, COO Kathy Nicholson, Emma Wilson and Dr Sanam Mustafa at ‘Science meets Parliament’.

 

 

 

 

Goldys on ‘Key Thinkers’ panel

8 February 2018:

The ability to develop a holistic and interdisciplinary vision was raised as a key attribute and skill by CNBP Deputy Director Prof Ewa Goldys at today’s ‘Key Thinkers – Key Concepts – Scholarly Gaze’ panel discussion, coordinated by the Faculty of Human Sciences, based at Macquarie University.

The event, consisting of prominent scientific speakers across differing disciplines, looked to better define the process of ‘seeing’ and ‘observation’ within the higher education research environment. Discussed were the use of technologies and techniques to help support advanced scientific theory development as well as best-practice methodology and laboratory experimentation.

Goldys, Professor at UNSW and Adjunct Professor at Macquarie University noted the advantages of having alternate vantage points and expertise from differing disciplines in her imaging, visualisation and cell colour research at the CNBP.

“It is the ability to bring together multiple disciplines and areas  – such as physics, chemistry, biology, medicine and materials science – that allows for the big science and health questions to be explored and then answered,” she said.

Below – Prof Ewa Goldys discussing the way in which she has successfully combined computer analysis with microscopy, to extract highly detailed cellular information that can help distinguish between healthy and diseased cells.