Medical Sciences

ALS Ice Bucket challenge

On Tuesday 26th August our own VC took up the ALS #icebucketchallenge trending on social media with help from two of our researchers in the school. Ian Johnson and Viythia Katharesan. The VC was nominated by student Beau Brug.

Ian (senior lecturer) and Viythia (PhD candidate) are researching Motor Neurone Disease (MND), also known as ALS.

Two Australians per day die from MND. It is a condition of late middle age characterised by motor neurone (nerve cell) loss that leads to paralysis and death, usually within 2 years. The cause of MND is unknown, and the single drug licensed to treat it prolongs life by only 3 months. Many potential therapies for MND based on studies of immature animals have been tried. But they have all failed.

Ian and Viyth propose that this failure is due to the different survival requirements of immature- and mature- motor neurones. And this is the focus of their research at The University of Adelaide.

They have found that older motoneurones take longer to die after injury and that  substances (neurotrophic factors) that are known to rescue immature motoneurones have different effects at different ages-sometimes not rescuing motoneurones at all. One of these factors is an isoform of Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) that is expressed by active muscle and has been termed Mechano-Growth Factor (MGF). They find that MGF rescues mature- but not immature- motoneurones from death. They also find that it does so by a different mechanism to that involving the commonly-used liver-type IGF-1. Liver-type IGF-1 has failed in clinical trials in MND.  They are also looking at the effects of artificially-increased levels of inflammation on motoneuronal survival and rescue since ageing has been associated with a rise in levels of inflammatory molecules.

They hope their  research on basic mechanisms underlying the survival and rescue of ageing motoneurones will allow new directions to be identified in the quest for a cure for MND.

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Travel Report from the US: Hannah Wardill


•             San Diego, California; USA

•             Miami, Florida; USA

This year, I was a lucky recipient of the School of Medical Sciences HDR Travel Scholarship. This funding facilitated travel to the USA where I attended the 2014 MASCC/ISOO (Multinational Association for Supportive Care in Cancer/International Society for Oral Oncology) International Symposium for Supportive Care in Cancer held in Miami, Florida. This symposium is the largest of its kind and represents a very diverse group of clinicians, nurses, research scientists and care providers all with a common goal to provide optimal care for those undergoing cancer treatment.

I attended the Mucositis Workshop, and presented my PhD research to an audience of international experts within the field, providing invaluable experience and feedback regarding my results, methodology and future directions. Not only did this allow me to build on my personal reputation within the field of mucositis, but it also initiated potential collaborations and opportunity for post-doctoral relationships. The main meeting focused on other areas of supportive care in cancer and unforeseen toxicities of cancer treatment such as pain, neuropathy and infection. I was therefore able to gain knowledge in many other areas of supportive care, some of which have direct implications for my own research.    

Whilst in the USA, I also visited the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), where I visited the laboratory of Professor Kim Barrett at the Biomedical Research Facility. Professor Barrett’s research is centred around the normal and abnormal function of the gastrointestinal epithelium and how it relates to specific pathologies. During my week’s visit, I worked very closely with Dr. Melanie Gareau – a research scientist of Professor Barrett’s laboratory – gaining experience and technical training in the Ussing Chamber. Our laboratory at the University of Adelaide recently acquired an Ussing Chamber and this training has therefore equipped me with the skills and knowledge to implement efficient and effective use of the Ussing Chamber in Adelaide. I also gave an invited presentation to the GI/Liver groups of the Biomedical Research Facility highlighting the updated pathobiology of mucositis. This presentation gave me the opportunity to introduce mucositis to a group of gastrointestinal experts and present my most recent research implicating tight junctions and the innate immune system in the development of gut toxicity following chemotherapy. It was a great opportunity to present this work to a group unfamiliar with this pathology, as they provided new perspectives on aspects of our animal model and research techniques. 

Overall, this trip provided me with excellent opportunities to present myself on an international scale and initiate collaborations that may prove useful in my post-doctoral career. I would like to thank the School of Medical Sciences for their generous support for which this trip was so heavily reliant upon.

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Link between endurance sports and heart condition

Researchers at the University of Adelaide are investigating a link between people involved in endurance sports, such as running, cycling or triathlons, and an increased risk of heart arrhythmia.

South Australians currently involved in endurance sports and exercise are now being sought for the study.

Research leader Dr Adrian Elliott, from the University’s School of Medical Sciences, says people don’t normally associate healthy activities with an increased risk of heart problems.

“We know that people experience cardiovascular health benefits when they exercise for 30-60 minutes each day, and this is something health professionals encourage people to do, wherever possible.

“However, regularly engaging in exercise beyond the recommended guidelines may have less beneficial consequences on the heart, particularly in the long-term. We’re looking for the underlying reasons behind this,” says Dr Elliott.

Dr Elliott says the risk of atrial fibrillation – the most common heart rhythm disorder in Australia – is increased almost five-fold in people who engage in regular, prolonged endurance exercise, such as running or cycling.

“The mechanisms underlying this increase in risk are not well understood,” he says. “The risk of atrial fibrillation may be due to changes in heart size that occur as a result of exercise training and/or changes in how the heart rate is controlled.

“Recent findings from studies here at the University of Adelaide indicate that certain areas of the heart may not work as well immediately following prolonged endurance exercise. We’ve also noticed a slight increase in the frequency of abnormal beats in the upper chambers of the heart. More information is needed so we can have a better understanding of what’s happening, and then look at what we can potentially do about it.”

Runners, cyclists and other endurance sportspeople in the metropolitan area of Adelaide – whether professional or amateur – are now being sought for this study.

Participants will undergo heart rhythm monitoring, a cardiac ultrasound and a blood test.

To find out more about the study or to join, call 8313 3194 or email: or

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Jemima Lendrum Honours Prize for Cancer Research 2014 – Michael De Ieso

Congratulations to one of the school’s Honour candidates Michael De Ieso for not only receiving the Jemima Lendrum Honours Prize for Cancer Research 2014 but also the Gerald Germer Honours Scholarship for 2014. Outstanding!

More info on the award can be found on the link below:



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MASA Excellence Award – Muhamad Syahrul Fitri Zawawi

Muhamad Syahrul Fitri Zawawi (Shah), a PhD student with the School of Medical Sciences, supervised by A/Prof David Haynes, Dr Tania Crotti and Dr Kencana Dharmapatni (Bone and Joint Research Group, Discipline of Anatomy and Pathology), has been chosen to receive the MASCA-Monash University Sciences Excellence Award 2014.

Each winner receives a trophy, certificate, iPad Mini and a professional development package designed to assist them in preparing for their future workforce. This includes workshop with recruitment and development experts for career coaching.

MASA (Malaysian Summit of Australia) Excellence Awards seeks students with exceptional performances in their educational qualification, academics and extra-curricular achievements, professional experiences, other areas of expertise and leadership capabilities. The Malaysian Australia Alumni Council (MAAC), Shell, ASTRO, Monash University and HSBC Bank are responsible to select the winners.

Congratulations Shah !!

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Wanted: Healthy Volunteers for genetic research study

first aid caseAre you aged over 18 years? Are you willing to take 15 minutes to fill out an anonymous questionaire about your health and other background information and provide a saliva sample for genetic testing ?

This study is being conducted at the University of Adelaide’s Discipline of Pharmacology. This study has been approved by the University of Adelaide’s Human Research Ethics Committee.

All participants receive a $20 Coles-Myer gift voucher for their time and effort.

Volunteers must:
Be aged between 18 and 65 years.

If interested, please contact Dr Janet Coller on 8313 3906 or Dr Daniel Barratt on 8313 5895.

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Australian Rotary Health PhD Scholarship – Alzheimers Disease

Australian Rotary Health invites applications for a PhD Scholarship starting mid-2014 or early-2015 investigating Alzheimer’s disease.

The value of this PhD Scholarship is $29,000 per annum for a maximum of 3.5 years, and is offered under a three way financial commitment between Australian Rotary Health ($7,000pa), The Rotary Club of Adelaide ($11,000pa), and the administering University/Research Institution ($11,000pa).

Applicants must be full-time students, enrolled within a recognised university or research institute in South Australia, Australia. Only applicants about to commence their PhD in mid-2014 or early-2015, and those without concurrent scholarship funding, are eligible to apply.

To download a copy of the application form and guidelines, please visit:

For more details, contact Michelle Nicholas at Australian Rotary Health on 02 8837 1900 or

Closing date is Friday 4th July 2014


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Professor Roger Byard – A world breakthrough in the fight against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

ADELAIDE researchers have made a world breakthrough in the fight against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome with a find that may have already saved one life.

A University of Adelaide study of medical data collected from deceased children could now help spare countless families the heartbreak of SIDS, which kills dozens of babies without warning every year. Chemical clues in the brains of SIDS victims now indicate a link to breathing problems.

The researchers have identified a link between SIDS and breathing problems, finding that telltale signs in the brains of babies who died of SIDS are remarkably similar to those of children who died of accidental asphyxiation.The clue they have discovered may have already saved one child, whose sibling was a SIDS victim.

The clue pointing to possible breathing irregularities in the victim led to doctors identifying sleep apnoea in the sibling, leading to precautions to avoid a repeat of the tragedy. Latest available statistics show that SIDS claimed 63 young Australian lives in 2011, including three in South Australia.

Despite decades of research and progress in preventative measures credited with decreasing fatalities — such as guidelines on bedding and positioning infants for sleep — its cause remains unknown and neither child nor family medical histories have been able to help predict it.

The Adelaide study compared 176 children who died from head trauma, infection, drowning, asphyxia and SIDS, checking for the presence of the amyloid precursor protein, known as APP, through “staining” it leaves on the brain in death.Researchers say this evidence does not identify a specific cause of death, but that its patterns “can help clarify the mechanism”. Project leader Professor Roger Byard said all 48 of the SIDS deaths examined showed APP staining in the brain.

“This is a very important result,” said Prof Byard, who is also Senior Specialist Forensic Pathologist with Forensic Science SA. “It helps to show that asphyxia rather than infection or trauma is more likely to be involved in SIDS deaths. “The staining by itself does not necessarily tell us the cause of death, but it can help to clarify the mechanism.

“The really interesting point is that the pattern of APP staining in SIDS cases, both the amount and distribution of the staining, was very similar to those in children who had died from asphyxia.” The presence of APP staining in a baby who had died of SIDS led to the identification of a significant sleep apnoea problem in the deceased child’s sibling.

This article originally appeared on Adelaidenow

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Honours Research Seminars

The Honours Research Proposal seminars will be held this Thursday the 10th April 2014.

Due to the large number of students the seminars will take place in two locations. The Felix Bochner Room (Level 5 Med School North) and Numico Seminar Room(S512). Both locations will start at 9:00am, with the last scheduled talk to begin at approximately 1:20pm.  

For more details on the schedule etc. please contact the Honours Co-ordinator Adrian Elliott. Come along and support our Honours students!

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Medical Sciences School Forum Notes- 28th March 2014

  • Paul Rolan spoke about new staff and introduced Lyndsey Collins-Praino. Lyndsey originally came from Columbia University in New York.
  • He also spoke about promotions based on excellence in teaching not just research. Evidence on collaborative work was seen as a key factor.
  • Paul spoke about the School of Medical Sciences Postgraduate Handbook.  The book’s design and content has been praised by the Faculty of Health Sciences and taken up as template for other schools in the faculty to use.
  • Starting a series of presenters on academic achievements at the forum, Maciej Henneberg spoke about the success of Kara Holloway and her achievements on the study of tuberculosis. A Skype session with Kara was initiated so she could talk about her research more.
  • Mark Hutchinson spoke briefly about a key success factor for paper submissions was to go out of your way to make yourself known to a visible network.
  • Andrew Zannettino spoke of the University of Freiburg’s fully funded overseas research program.
  • Melissa Cantley spoke about her recent selection for a trip to Germany for the Nobel Laureates Meeting
  • Paul spoke about Corinna Van Den Heuvel  joining the Adelaide Women Program
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