News Article | April 17, 2017
People mislead themselves all day long. We tell ourselves we’re smarter and better looking than our friends, that our political party can do no wrong, that we’re too busy to help a colleague. In 1976, in the foreword to Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene, the biologist Robert Trivers floated a novel explanation for such self-serving biases: We dupe ourselves in order to deceive others, creating social advantage. Now after four decades Trivers and his colleagues have published the first research supporting his idea. Psychologists have identified several ways of fooling ourselves: biased information-gathering, biased reasoning and biased recollections. The new work, forthcoming in the Journal of Economic Psychology, focuses on the first—the way we seek information that supports what we want to believe and avoid that which does not. In one experiment Trivers and his team asked 306 online participants to write a persuasive speech about a fictional man named Mark. They were told they would receive a bonus depending on how effective it was. Some were told to present Mark as likable, others were instructed to depict him as unlikable, the remaining subjects were directed to convey whatever impression they formed. To gather information about Mark, the participants watched a series of short videos, which they could stop observing at any intermission. For some viewers, most of the early videos presented Mark in a good light (recycling, returning a wallet), and they grew gradually darker (catcalling, punching a friend). For others, the videos went from dark to light. When incentivized to present Mark as likable, people who watched the likable videos first stopped watching sooner than those who saw unlikable videos first. The former did not wait for a complete picture as long as they got the information they needed to convince themselves, and others, of Mark’s goodness. In turn, their own opinions about Mark were more positive, which led their essays about his good nature to be more convincing, as rated by other participants. (A complementary process occurred for those paid to present Mark as bad.) “What’s so interesting is that we seem to intuitively understand that if we can get ourselves to believe something first, we’ll be more effective at getting others to believe it,” says William von Hippel, a psychologist at The University of Queensland, who co-authored the study. “So we process information in a biased fashion, we convince ourselves, and we convince others. The beauty is, those are the steps Trivers outlined—and they all lined up in one study.” In real life you are not being paid to talk about Mark but you may be selling a used car or debating a tax policy or arguing for a promotion—cases in which you benefit not from gaining and presenting an accurate picture of reality but from convincing someone of a particular point of view. One of the most common types of self-deception is self-enhancement. Psychologists have traditionally argued we evolved to overestimate our good qualities because it makes us feel good. But feeling good on its own has no bearing on survival or reproduction. Another assertion is self-enhancement boosts motivation, leading to greater accomplishment. But if motivation were the goal, then we would have just evolved to be more motivated, without the costs of reality distortion. Trivers argues that a glowing self-view makes others see us in the same light, leading to mating and cooperative opportunities. Supporting this argument, Cameron Anderson, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, showed in 2012 that overconfident people are seen as more competent and have higher social status. “I believe there is a good possibility that self-deception evolved for the purpose of other-deception,” Anderson says. In another study, forthcoming in Social Psychological and Personality Science, von Hippel and collaborators tested all three arguments together, in a longitudinal fashion. Does overconfidence in one’s self increase mental health? Motivation? Popularity? Tracking almost 1,000 Australian high school boys for two years, the researchers found that over time, overconfidence about one’s athleticism and intelligence predicted neither better mental health nor better athletic or academic performance. Yet athletic overconfidence did predict greater popularity over time, supporting the idea that self-deception begets social advantage. (Intellectual self-enhancement may not have boosted popularity, the authors suggest, because among the teenage boys, smarts may have mattered less than sports.) Why did it take so long for experimental evidence for Trivers’ idea to emerge? In part, he says, because he is a theorist and did not test it until he met von Hippel. Other experimental psychologists didn’t test it because the theory was not well known in psychology, von Hippel and Anderson say. Further, they suggest, most psychologists saw self-esteem or motivation as reason enough for self-enhancement to evolve. Hugo Mercier, a researcher at the Institute for Cognitive Sciences in France who was not involved in the new studies, is familiar with the theory but questions it. He believes that in the long run overconfidence may backfire. He and others also debate whether motivated biases can strictly be called self-deception. “The whole concept is misleading,” he says. It’s not as though there is one part of us deliberately fooling another part of us that is the “self.” Trivers, von Hippel and Anderson of course disagree with Mercier on self-deception’s functionality and terminology. Von Hippel offers two pieces of wisdom regarding self-deception: “My Machiavellian advice is this is a tool that works,” he says. “If you need to convince somebody of something, if your career or social success depends on persuasion, then the first person who needs to be [convinced] is yourself.” On the defensive side, he says, whenever anyone tries to convince you of something, think about what might be motivating that person. Even if he is not lying to you, he may be deceiving both you and himself.
News Article | April 27, 2017
One year after launching iOS version of PPD ACT in the U.S. and Australia, UNC School of Medicine launches Android version and Canada launches iOS app to increase participation. CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - The UNC School of Medicine today launched the Android version of PPD ACTTM, a mobile app-based study helping to further the understanding of why some women suffer from Postpartum Depression (PPD) and others do not - critical knowledge for researchers working to find more effective treatments. PPD ACTTM, previously available for iOS only, is now available in the U.S. and Australia for Android devices and the iOS version is now available in Canada. Additionally, all users in the U.S. may access a new module to help researchers understand the economic impact and burden that PPD has on society. The app surveys women to identify those who have had symptoms of PPD and invites certain women to provide DNA samples so that researchers can study the genes of those affected by PPD. During its first year, approximately 14,000 women enrolled in the study, far surpassing expectations. PPD ACT was initially launched as an iPhone-based ResearchKit app, an open-source framework developed by Apple that allows researchers to create app-based studies with global reach. However, since approximately half of the U.S. population uses Android phones, as do many women in Australia, this new version of the app will open the doors for many more women to participate. Additionally, a Canadian team led by Women's College Hospital in Ontario, Canada, has received funding to expand the iOS app into Canada, responding to the numerous requests from Canadian women wanting to participate in the study. "The participation from the first year of the study is astounding and, frankly, unprecedented in terms of using the social media platform of an app to recruit women for study participation involving the donation of genetic samples," said Samantha Meltzer-Brody, MD, MPH, director of the Perinatal Psychiatry Program at the UNC Center for Women's Mood Disorders and lead researcher for the study. "Launching the Android version in the U.S. and Australia and expanding into Canada allows for an even larger group of women the opportunity to share their experiences so that we can more effectively diagnose and treat PPD in the future." This study is the first of its kind and uniquely designed for rapid collection of a large number of DNA samples required for genetic analysis. The eventual goal is to gather 50,000 samples from around the globe through continued expansion to additional countries. PPD ACTTM has also had impact beyond research. Many women have sought care and treatment based on symptoms that became apparent after completing the screening module of the app. "As someone who experienced a variation of PPD symptoms after the births of both of my daughters, I would have welcomed an application, in the privacy of my home, at my fingertips, to potentially help target the 'what and why' of this temporary mental health challenge," said patient Jamie Belsito. "In addition to gathering valuable data, PPD ACT is also starting a much-needed dialogue to help eradicate the stigma often associated with PPD, and to encourage more providers to thoroughly screen for and treat PPD." The U.S. version of the app will also now feature a module which will help researchers better understand the burden that PPD has on patients' quality of life, maternal function, bonding and utilization of health care services. Currently, researchers have an inadequate understanding of the economic burden and the cost of PPD on society. This health outcomes research is being conducted in collaboration with Sage Therapeutics, Inc. "Until now, the impact of PPD on individuals, their families, and society has been poorly understood. This research, undertaken by UNC, Sage and our collaborators, helps to provide a new, real-world, data-driven understanding of the disease burden postpartum depression patients experience and of their healthcare utilization," said Steve Kanes, MD, PhD, Chief Medical Officer at Sage. "We are very excited to collaborate with UNC in helping to further study the functional and economic impact of this complication of pregnancy." Android users in the U.S. and Australia will be able to download PPD ACTTM from Google Play. The app continues to be available for iPhone users as a free download from the App Store in the U.S. and Australia, and it is now also available in Canada. International research partners include The University of Queensland in Australia and Women's College Hospital in Toronto, Canada. To help spread the message, UNC has partnered with Postpartum Support International, which is dedicated to increasing awareness among public and professional communities about the emotional changes that women experience during pregnancy and postpartum. "Postpartum Support International is thrilled to partner with UNC on this pioneering study, and to collaborate with researchers around the world," said Ann Smith, president of Postpartum Support International. "We will spread the message and opportunity to participate through our global network of volunteers and professional members. We are confident that findings from this study will prevent suffering and increase positive outcomes for future generations." The app is intended for women 18 years or older who have previously given birth and believe they may have experienced or are currently experiencing signs or symptoms of PPD such as anxiety, depression, guilt, irritability or extreme sadness. To download the app or learn more about the study or PPD, visit pactforthecure.com. Patrick Sullivan, MD, Yeargen Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Genetics at the UNC School of Medicine, is a co-investigator in this project. Development of the app and support for the study are provided by the Foundation of Hope for research and treatment of mental illness; Sage Therapeutics, a neuroscience-focused company discovering medicines to treat life-threatening, rare CNS disorders; the UNC Departments of Genetics and Psychiatry; and the UNC Center for Health Innovation. Little Green Software, a full-service app development firm, developed the app. The UNC Center for Women's Mood Disorders is internationally known in the evaluation and treatment of women with mood disorders that occur during periods of hormonal change. Reproductive mood disorders include depression and anxiety disorders associated with the reproductive life cycle. To learn more, click here. Established by the UNC Health Care System (UNC HCS) and the UNC School of Medicine (UNC SOM), the Center for Health Innovation initiates, evaluates and supports the adoption of disruptive, patient-centered innovations in the delivery and financing of health care. The Center strives to provide rapid assessment, coordinated facilitation, program management, partnership development and funding for innovation. To learn more, click here.
News Article | March 1, 2017
The experiments were not randomized and the investigators were not blinded to allocation during experiments and outcome assessment. ARC-Net, University of Verona: approval number 1885 from the Integrated University Hospital Trust (AOUI) Ethics Committee (Comitato Etico Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria Integrata) approved in their meeting of 17 November 2010, documented by the ethics committee 52070/CE on 22 November 2010 and formalized by the Health Director of the AOUI on the order of the General Manager with protocol 52438 on 23 November 2010. APGI: Sydney South West Area Health Service Human Research Ethics Committee, western zone (protocol number 2006/54); Sydney Local Health District Human Research Ethics Committee (X11-0220); Northern Sydney Central Coast Health Harbour Human Research Ethics Committee (0612-251M); Royal Adelaide Hospital Human Research Ethics Committee (091107a); Metro South Human Research Ethics Committee (09/QPAH/220); South Metropolitan Area Health Service Human Research Ethics Committee (09/324); Southern Adelaide Health Service/Flinders University Human Research Ethics Committee (167/10); Sydney West Area Health Service Human Research Ethics Committee (Westmead campus) (HREC2002/3/4.19); The University of Queensland Medical Research Ethics Committee (2009000745); Greenslopes Private Hospital Ethics Committee (09/34); North Shore Private Hospital Ethics Committee. Baylor College of Medicine: Institutional Review Board protocol numbers H-29198 (Baylor College of Medicine tissue resource), H-21332 (Genomes and Genetics at the BCM-HGSC), and H-32711(Cancer Specimen Biobanking and Genomics). Patients were recruited and consent obtained for genomic sequencing through the ARC-Net Research Centre at Verona University, Australian Pancreatic Cancer Genome Initiative (APGI), and Baylor College of Medicine as part of the ICGC (www.icgc.org). A patient criterion for admission to the study was that they were clinically sporadic. This information was acquired through direct interviews with participants and a questionnaire regarding their personal history and that of relatives with regard to pancreas cancers and any other cancers during anamnesis. Clinical records were also used to clarify familial history based on patient indications. Samples were prospectively and consecutively acquired through institutions affiliated with the Australian Pancreatic Cancer Genome Initiative. Samples from the ARC-Net biobank are the result of consecutive collections from a single centre. All tissue samples were processed as previously described5151. Representative sections were reviewed independently by at least one additional pathologist with specific expertise in pancreatic diseases. Samples either had full face frozen sectioning performed in optimal cutting temperature (OCT) medium, or the ends excised and processed in formalin to verify the presence of tumour in the sample to be sequenced and to estimate the percentage of neoplastic cells in the sample relative to stromal cells. Macrodissection was performed if required to excise areas that did not contain neoplastic epithelium. Tumour cellularity was determined using SNP arrays (Illumina) and the qpure tool9. PanNET is a rare tumour type and the samples were collected via an international network. We estimate that with 98 unique patients in the discovery cohort, we will achieve 90% power for 90% of genes to detect mutations that occur at a frequency of ~10% above the background rate for PanNET (assuming a somatic mutation frequency of more than 2 per Mb)52. Cancer and matched normal colonic mucosa were collected at the time of surgical resection from the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital and snap frozen in liquid nitrogen. A biallelic germline mutation in the MUTYH gene was detected by restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis and confirmed by automated sequencing to be the G382D mutation (or ENST00000450313.5 G396D, ClinVar#5294) in both alleles53. The primary antibodies used for immunohistochemical staining were: cytokeratin 8/18 (5D3, Novocastra), chromogranin A (DAK-A3, Dako), and CD99 (O13, Biolegend). Antibodies and staining conditions have been described elsewhere39. Whole-genome sequencing with 100-bp paired reads was performed with a HiSEQ2000 (Illumina). Sequence data were mapped to a GRCh37 using BWA and BAM files are available in the EGA (accession number: EGAS00001001732). Somatic mutations and germline variants were detected using a previously described consensus mutation calling strategy11. Mutations were annotated with gene consequence using SNPeff. The pathogenicity of germline variants was predicted using cancer-specific and locus-specific genetic databases, medical literature, computational predictions with ENSEMBL Variant Effect Predictor (VEP) annotation, and second hits identified in the tumour genome. Intogen27 was used to find somatic genes that were significantly mutated. Somatic structural variants were identified using the qSV tool as previously described10, 11, 17. Coding mutations are included in supplementary tables and all mutations have been uploaded to the International Cancer Genome Consortium Data Coordination Center. Mutational signatures were predicted using a published framework14. Essentially, the 96-substitution classification was determined for each sample. The signatures were compared to other validated signatures and the prevalence of each signature per megabase was determined. Somatic copy number was estimated using high density SNP arrays and the GAP tool12. Arm level copy number data were clustered using Ward’s method, Euclidian distance. GISTIC13 was used to identify recurrent regions of copy number change. The whole genome sequence data was used to determine the length of the telomeres in each sample using the qMotif tool. Essentially, qMotif determines telomeric DNA content by calculating the number of reads that harbour the telomere motif (TTAGG), and then estimates the relative length of telomeres in the tumour compared to the normal. qMotif is available online (http://sourceforge.net/projects/adamajava). Telomere length was validated by qPCR as previously described54. RNASeq library preparation and sequencing were performed as previously described55. Essentially, sequencing reads were mapped to transcripts corresponding to ensemble 70 annotations using RSEM. RSEM data were normalized using TMM (weighted trimmed mean of M-values) as implemented in the R package ‘edgeR’. For downstream analyses, normalized RSEM data were converted to counts per million (c.p.m.) and log transformed. Genes without at least 1 c.p.m. in 20% of the sample were excluded from further analysis55. Unsupervised class discovery was performed using consensus clustering as implemented in the ConsensusClusterPlus R package56. The top 2,000 most variable genes were used as input. Differential gene expression analysis between representative samples was performed using the R package ‘edgeR’57. Ontology and pathway enrichment analysis was performed using the R package ‘dnet’58. PanNET class enrichment using published gene signatures44 was performed using Gene Set Variation Analysis (GSVA) as described previously55. Two strategies were used to verify fusion transcripts. For verification of EWSR1–BEND2 fusions, cDNAs were synthesized using the SuperScript VILO cDNA synthesis kit (Thermofisher) with 1 μg purified total RNA. For each fusion sequence, three samples were used: the PanNET sample containing the fusion, the PanNET sample without that fusion, and a non-neoplastic pancreatic sample. The RT–PCR product were evaluated on the Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer (Agilent Technologies) and verified by sequencing using the 3130XL Genetic Analyzer (Life Technologies). Primers specific for EWSR1–BEND2 fusion genes are available upon request. To identify the EWSR1 fusion partner in the case ITNET_2045, a real-time RT–PCR translocation panel for detecting specific Ewing sarcoma fusion transcripts was applied as described59. Following identification of the fusion partner, PCR amplicons were subjected to sequencing using the 3130XL Genetic Analyzer. EWSR1 rearrangements were assayed on paraffin-embedded tissue sections using a commercial split-signal probe (Vysis LSI EWSR1 (22q12) Dual Colour, Break Apart Rearrangement FISH Probe Kit) that consists of a mixture of two FISH DNA probes. One probe (~500 kb) is labelled in SpectrumOrange and flanks the 5′ side of the EWSR1 gene, extending through intron 4, and the second probe (~1,100 kb) is labelled in SpectrumGreen and flanks the 3′ side of the EWSR1 gene, with a 7-kb gap between the two probes. With this setting, the assay enables the detection of rearrangements with breakpoints spanning introns 7–10 of the EWSR1 gene. Hybridization was performed according to the manufacturer’s instructions and scoring of tissue sections was assessed as described elsewhere60, counting at least 100 nuclei per slide. Recurrently mutated genes identified by whole-genome sequencing were independently evaluated in a series of 62 PaNETs from the ARC-Net Research Centre, University of Verona. Four Ion Ampliseq Custom panels (Thermofisher) were designed to target the entire coding regions and flanking intron–exon junctions of the following genes: MEN1, DAXX, ATRX, PTEN and TSC2 (panel 1); DEPDC5, TSC1 and SETD2 (panel 2); ARID1A and MTOR (panel 3); CHEK2 and MUTYH (panel 4). Twenty nanograms of DNA were used per multiplex PCR amplification. The quality of the obtained libraries was evaluated by the Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer on chip electrophoresis. Emulsion PCR was performed with the OneTouch system (Thermofisher). Sequencing was run on the Ion Torrent Personal Genome Machine (PGM, Thermofisher) loaded with 316 or 318 chips. Data analysis, including alignment to the hg19 human reference genome and variant calling, was done using Torrent Suite Software v4.0 (Thermofisher). Filtered variants were annotated using a custom pipeline based on the Variant Effector Predictor (VEP) software. Alignments were visually verified with the Integrative Genomics Viewer: IGV v2.3 (Broad Institute). There is no contiguous structure available for CHEK2, so we produced a model of isoform C using PDBid 3i6w61 as a template for predicting the structure of sequence O96017. Modelling was carried out within the YASARA suite of programs62 and consisted of an initial BLAST search for suitable templates followed by alignment, building of loops not present in selected template structure and energy minimization in explicit solvent. Modelling was carried out in the absence of a phosphopeptide ligand, which was added on completion by aligning the model with structure 1GXC and merging the ligand contained therein with the model structure. Similarly, MUTYH is represented by discontinuous structures and so this too was modelled using PDBids 3N5N and 4YPR as templates together with sequence NP_036354.1. Having constructed both models, amino acid substitutions were carried out to make the wild-type sequences conform to the variants described above. Each substitution was carried out independently and the resulting variant structures were subject to simulated annealing energy minimization using the AMBER force field. The resulting energy-minimized structures formed the basis of the predictions. CHEK2 site mutants were generated by site-directed mutagenesis of wild-type pCMV–FLAG CHEK2 (primer sequences in Supplementary Table 16). Proteins were expressed in HEK293T, a highly transfectable derivative of HEK293 cells that were retrieved from the cell culture bank at the QIMR Berghofer medical research institute. Cells were authenticated by STR profiling and were negative for mycoplasma. Transfected cells were lysed in NP-40 modified RIPA with protease and phosphatase inhibitors. Protein expression levels were analysed by western blotting with anti-FLAG antibodies and imaging HRP luminescent signal on a CCD camera (Fuji) and quantifying in MultiGauge software (Fuji). Kinase assays were performed using recombinant GST–CDC25C (amino acids 200–256) as substrate, essentially as described63. Kinase assay quantification was performed by scintillation counting of excised gel bands in OptiPhase scintillant (Perkin Elmer) using a Tri-Carb 2100TR beta counter (Packard). Counts for each reaction set were expressed as a fraction of the wild type. All experiments were performed at least three times. The date of diagnosis and the date and cause of death for each patient were obtained from the Central Cancer Registry and treating clinicians. Median survival was estimated using the Kaplan–Meier method and the difference was tested using the log-rank test. P values of less than 0.05 were considered statistically significant. The hazard ratio and its 95% confidence interval were estimated using Cox proportional hazard regression modelling. The correlation between DAXX or ATRX mutational status and other clinico-pathological variables was calculated using the χ2 test. Statistical analysis was performed using StatView 5.0 Software (Abacus Systems). Disease-specific survival was used as the primary endpoint. Genome sequencing data presented in this study have been submitted to the European Genome-Phenome Archive under accession number EGAS00001001732 (https://www.ebi.ac.uk/ega/search/site/EGAS00001001732).
News Article | November 17, 2016
A brief but brilliant burst of radiation that travelled at least a billion light years through Space to reach an Australian radio telescope last year has given scientists new insight into the fabric of the Universe. ICRAR-Curtin University's Dr Ryan Shannon, who co-led research into the sighting along with the California Institute of Technology's Dr Vikram Ravi, said the flash, known as a Fast Radio Burst (FRB), was one of the brightest seen since FRBs were first detected in 2001. The flash was captured by CSIRO's Parkes radio telescope in New South Wales. Dr Shannon, from the Curtin node of ICRAR (the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research) and CSIRO, said all FRBs contained crucial information but this FRB, the 18th detected so far, was unique in the amount of information it contained about the cosmic web - the swirling gases and magnetic fields between galaxies. "FRBs are extremely short but intense pulses of radio waves, each only lasting about a millisecond. Some are discovered by accident and no two bursts look the same," Dr Shannon said. "This particular FRB is the first detected to date to contain detailed information about the cosmic web - regarded as the fabric of the Universe - but it is also unique because its travel path can be reconstructed to a precise line of sight and back to an area of space about a billion light years away that contains only a small number of possible home galaxies." Dr Shannon explained that the vast spaces between objects in the Universe contain nearly invisible gas and a plasma of ionised particles that used to be almost impossible to map, until this pulse was detected. "This FRB, like others detected, is thought to originate from outside of Earth's own Milky Way galaxy, which means their signal has travelled over many hundreds of millions of light years, through a medium that - while invisible to our eyes - can be turbulent and affected by magnetic fields," Dr Shannon said. "It is amazing how these very few milliseconds of data can tell how weak the magnetic field is along the travelled path and how the medium is as turbulent as predicted." This particular flash reached CSIRO's Parkes radio telescope mid-last year and was subsequently analysed by a mostly Australian team. A paper describing the FRB and the team's findings was published today in the journal Science. The Parkes telescope has been a prolific discoverer of FRBs, having detected the vast majority of the known population including the very first, the Lorimer burst, in 2001. FRBs remain one of the most mysterious processes in the Universe and likely one of the most energetic ones. To catch more FRBs, astronomers use new technology, such as Parkes' multibeam receiver, the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) in Western Australia, and the upgraded Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope near Canberra. This particular FRB was found and analysed by a system developed by the supercomputing group led by Professor Matthew Bailes at Swinburne University of Technology. Professor Bailes, who was a co-author on the Science paper, also heads The Dynamic Universe research theme in the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO), which has seven Australian nodes including ICRAR-Curtin University. "Ultimately, FRBs that can be traced to their cosmic host galaxies offer a unique way to probe intergalactic space that allow us to count the bulk of the electrons that inhabit our Universe," Professor Bailes said. "To decode and further understand the information contained in this FRB is an exceptional opportunity to explore the physical forces and the extreme environment out in Space." "The magnetic field and turbulence of the cosmic web measured using a brilliant fast radio burst" published November 17th 2016 in Science. CAASTRO is a collaboration of The University of Sydney, The Australian National University, The University of Melbourne, Swinburne University of Technology, The University of Queensland, The University of Western Australia and Curtin University, the latter two participating together as the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR). CAASTRO is funded under the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence program, with additional funding from the seven participating universities and from the NSW State Government's Science Leveraging Fund. ICRAR is a joint venture between Curtin University and The University of Western Australia with support and funding from the State Government of Western Australia.CONTACTS
News Article | December 5, 2016
TORONTO, ON and BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA--(Marketwired - December 05, 2016) - Patients at risk of life-threatening infections following chemotherapy could benefit from a new cell-based treatment developed from University of Queensland research. In the weeks following chemotherapy, a patient's immune system is depleted as a result of neutropenia -- a decrease in the number of circulating white blood cells or neutrophils -- which leaves the patient vulnerable to potentially fatal infection. UQ's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology's (AIBN) Professor Lars Nielsen and his team have developed a method of producing a therapeutic dose of white blood cells in a typical transfusion bag which can be administered to patients immediately after chemotherapy. Professor Nielsen said chemotherapy-induced neutropenia (CIN) is a life-threatening risk to cancer patients. "It exposes them to infection and fever, which can lead to delays in treatment and reductions in chemo dose intensity," he said. "The treatment most commonly used for neutropenia involves an injection of granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) which stimulates the patient's own stem cells to expand and differentiate into neutrophils. "G-CSF's effectiveness relies on the number of stem cells in the patient's bone marrow, which is significantly reduced after chemotherapy, and it takes time for the stem cells to recover and mature into white blood cells. "Our method instead avoids that 'at risk' period following treatment by extracting and separating stem cells from umbilical cord blood to produce a transfusion-ready therapeutic dose of white blood cells, which can be administered to patients immediately after chemotherapy," Professor Nielsen said. The technology is based on research by UQ's Professor Nielsen and Dr. Emma Palfreyman, and Dr. Nick Timmins, formerly of UQ and now based at CCRM -- a Canadian leader in developing and commercializing regenerative medicine technologies and cell and gene therapies. It will now progress towards the clinic following a licensing deal with CCRM, negotiated by UQ commercialization company UniQuest. UniQuest CEO Dr. Dean Moss said CCRM was the ideal partner to take the neutrophil technology towards the market. "CCRM has demonstrated experience in fundamental stem cell science and the commercialization of regenerative medicine and we are delighted that they will take UQ's research towards the clinic so that it can benefit patients," Dr. Moss said. CCRM President and CEO, Dr. Michael May, said the centre is excited about the agreement with UQ and UniQuest. "By combining the technology licensed from UQ with CCRM's expertise and capabilities in the commercialization of stem cell therapies, we believe we can provide a solution to this unmet clinical need and make a real difference to chemotherapy patients," Dr. May said. The neutrophil research at UQ has been supported since 2003 by Stem Cells Australia and its forerunner, the Australian Stem Cell Centre, as well as the Australian Red Cross Blood Service and the Australian Research Council. CCRM, a Canadian not-for-profit organization funded by the Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario, and leading academic and industry partners, supports the development of regenerative medicines and associated enabling technologies, with a specific focus on cell and gene therapy. A network of researchers, leading companies, strategic investors and entrepreneurs, CCRM aims to accelerate the translation of scientific discovery into marketable products for patients with specialized teams, funding and infrastructure. CCRM is the commercialization partner of the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine and the University of Toronto's Medicine by Design. CCRM is hosted by the University of Toronto. Visit us at ccrm.ca UniQuest is the main commercialisation company of The University of Queensland, specialising in the transfer of intellectual property, research outcomes and expertise. UniQuest has a 30-year track record, including the commercialisation of the HPV vaccine Gardasil®, the Triple P Positive Parenting Program, the image correction technology used in two-thirds of the world's MRI machines and Spinifex Pty Ltd -- a biopharmaceutical company acquired recently in one of Australia's largest ever biotech deals. To learn more, visit www.uniquest.com.au. The University of Queensland's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) is a multi-disciplinary translational research institute that brings together the skills of world-class researchers working at the intersection of biology, chemistry, engineering and computer modelling. AIBN has more than 450 researchers housed in a state-of-the-art building, complimented by an extensive suite of facilities. This critical mass of researchers is working to develop innovative technologies such as stem cell ageing and regenerative engineering, precision nanomedicine, advanced materials, nanoagriculture, and industrial biotechnology. Discover more at www.aibn.uq.edu.au.
News Article | December 12, 2016
(PHILADELPHIA) Dec. 12, 2016 - In one of the first studies to examine priorities in recovery identified by trauma patients, family members and clinicians over time, an international research partnership that was launched from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing) and Griffith University School of Nursing & Midwifery in Australia has helped advance the importance of patient-reported outcome measures for improved trauma care and research. The study, "Indicators of Injury Recovery Identified by Patients, Family Members and Clinicians," was recently published in the journal Injury and is available here in digital format. "While it is recognized that focusing on what patients envision to be good outcomes is an important part of patient-centered care, asking trauma patients and their families what they consider to be the priorities of care and recovery has been neglected," said Penn Nursing's Therese S. Richmond, PhD, FAAN, CRNP, the Andrea B. Laporte Professor of Nursing and Associate Dean for Research & Innovation. Richmond, and study's lead author Leanne M. Aitken, PhD, RN, Professor of Nursing, now at the City, University of London, conceived the research while Aitken was undertaking a Fulbright Senior Scholarship at the University of Pennsylvania. The study focused on two areas: learning what patients, family members and clinicians considered to be the indicators of successful recovery from an acute hospitalization after traumatic injury; and understanding if these indicators differed between these groups of stakeholders or changed over time, from during hospitalization to three months after discharge. Thirty-three trauma patients, 22 family members and 40 clinicians were recruited from trauma departments in two Australian teaching hospitals. Stakeholders in the study identified five specific Indicators of recovery, including returning to work, resuming family roles, achieving independence, recapturing normality and achieving comfort. Trauma patients articulated the most detail in these indicators, compared to the responses from the study's other stakeholders. "Understanding different perceptions in relation to outcomes is particularly important in trauma, where patients may not be able to participate in decision making for a period of their hospitalization," said Aitken. Perceptions of indicators of injury recovery changed for some participants over the three months after they were discharged. These changes fell into three broad groups: increasing recognition that activities of daily living were important; increasing realization of the impact of the injury; and unfolding appreciation that life could not be taken for granted. While in the hospital, trauma patients in the study often noted the desire to be able to care for themselves. The practical implications of their physical limitations, however, did not fully reveal themselves until after discharge. Instead, the ripple effects of limitations in their abilities to undertake basic self-care activities or have full range of movement of their limbs became increasingly apparent within the first month of being at home. "Changes in expectations and priorities over time have implications for how we provide education and support that should be tailored to different phases in the recovery trajectory," said Richmond. "As patients and family members change their expectations over time, appropriate care needs to be provided across the care continuum." The study's findings indicate a further need to explore recovery priorities using quantitative techniques to determine relevance to a broad cross-section of trauma patients and to develop an appropriate set of outcome measures that patients consider to be important. Although some differences between stakeholder groups were identified, similarities and differences should be tested further in larger groups. "It is expected that by understanding what matters to patients and family members will help us empower patients to be active participants in the healthcare process and will underpin development of patient-reported outcomes that should be used in practice and research in trauma care," said Aitken. "This information will also inform future trauma outcome research to ensure these priority areas are appropriate for a broader range of participants." In addition to Aitken and Richmond, the research team included: Wendy Chaboyer, RN, PhD, NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Nursing (NCREN), Menzies Health Institute Queensland & School of Nursing and Midwifery, Griffith University, Australia ; Carol Jeffrey, RN, MHSc, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Australia, and School of Nursing and Midwifery, Griffith University, Australia; Bronte Martin, RN, MNurs, National Critical Care Trauma Response Centre, Royal Darwin Hospital, Australia; Jennifer A. Whitty, BPharm(Hons) GradDipClinPharm PhD, Health Economics, Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK, Menzies Health Institute Queensland & School of Medicine, Griffith University, Australia and School of Pharmacy, The University of Queensland, Australia; Michael Schuetz, FRACS, Dr.med. Dr.med.habil., Charité Hospital, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany. Editor's Note: The team of researchers report no conflicts of interest. About the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing The University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing is one of the world's leading schools of nursing and is ranked the #1 graduate nursing school in the United States by U.S. News & World Report. Penn Nursing is consistently among the nation's top recipients of nursing research funding from the National Institutes of Health. Penn Nursing prepares nurse
News Article | February 20, 2017
Researchers at The University of Queensland's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) have designed a virus-like nanoparticle (VNP) that delivers drugs directly to the cells where they are needed. The lead author of a paper on the topic, Dr Frank Sainsbury, said the VNP was made from the structural proteins that formed the virus's protective shell. "Viruses have evolved to contain and protect bioactive molecules," Dr Sainsbury said. "They've also evolved smart ways to get into cells and deliver these bioactive molecules. "The VNP is an empty shell. It looks like a virus but it's not infectious. This makes it safe to use as a targeted drug delivery system." With infectious viral genes removed, empty shells can be loaded with small molecules or proteins resulting in a stable, well-protected therapeutic package. The outside of the shell then determines where the package will go. The ability to send drugs directly to their target is a critical goal in the development of safe, effective therapeutics. Currently many drugs, including anti-cancer chemotherapies, must be administered at high doses in order to have a therapeutic effect. This can lead to harsh side effects because drugs can damage healthy cells as well as intended targets. Dr Sainsbury and his colleagues developed a VNP using the Bluetongue virus, which normally infects cows, sheep and other ruminants. They picked the virus because of its stable shell, made of hundreds of proteins that are known to bind to a molecule found in high levels around many cancer cells. Dr Sainsbury teamed up with Dr Michael Landsberg at UQ's School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences and researchers at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience and the UK's John Innes Centre. They were able to demonstrate that the porous VNPs could be filled with small molecules for drug delivery and it also was possible to design VNPs to contain larger molecules, such as therapeutic proteins. Importantly, the researchers showed VNPs were able to bind to breast cancer cells, and then be absorbed. Dr Sainsbury said the next step was to load the VNPs with anti-cancer drugs and see if they could kill cancer cells without harming healthy cells. Although VNPs are highly complex and difficult to synthesise, Dr Sainsbury said they could be easily produced in the leaves of Nicotiana benthamiana, a wild relative of tobacco. By providing plant cells with genetic instructions for making VNPs, the plant was able to assemble virus protein shells without any permanent change to the plant's own genetic code. Dr Sainsbury said one day greenhouses may be able to produce large amounts of the nanoparticles within days. "This research unlocks a myriad of potential applications in therapeutic delivery," Dr Sainsbury said. Because the nanoparticles they have designed are highly stable, the AIBN research team is exploring other biotechnology applications. Explore further: Plant-made virus shells could deliver drugs directly to cancer cells
News Article | December 8, 2016
The University of Queensland's Queensland Brain Institute First to Deploy Brocade Gen 6 Fibre Channel Technology in Australia for Storage Networking BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA--(Marketwired - Dec 8, 2016) - Brocade ( : BRCD) today announced that The University of Queensland's Queensland Brain Institute will become the first organization in Australia to migrate to Brocade® Gen 6 Fibre Channel storage networking solutions. Brocade G620 switches will be deployed to provide the speed and performance the Queensland Brain Institute needs to eliminate data bottlenecks and accelerate research into preventing brain diseases such as dementia, Alzheimer's, motor neuron disease, anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. Established in 2003, the Queensland Brain Institute is one of the world's largest dedicated facilities focused on understanding how the brain works and finding ways to prevent diseases. While it has been remarkably successful in making major neuroscientific discoveries -- with an Alzheimer's breakthrough among the world's most discussed medical research last year -- the difficulty accessing, storing, and managing increasingly large data sets from brain imaging and microscopy devices is a constant consideration. Continuous improvement is vitally important to ensure scientific research staff have a "zero friction" experience in their workflows. "Whole-brain imaging is critical to our research, but as advances in imaging and microscopy instruments continue to increase the resolutions and sampling rates of the data they generate, our storage infrastructure has new and unpredictable demands put upon it every day," said Jake Carroll, senior information technology manager (research), Queensland Brain Institute. "Brocade's Gen 6 Fibre Channel switches will provide a massive boost in our data transfer speeds to enable our scientists to get their job done seamlessly and efficiently." The Brocade G620 is a high-density storage networking switch that delivers breakthrough performance and scalability designed to support data growth and demanding workloads from mission-critical applications. The Queensland Brain Institute will deploy Brocade G620 switches to form a fully redundant, low-latency storage network fabric with 32 Gigabit per second (Gbps) links -- which can be combined into a 128 Gbps framed-based trunk -- capable of dealing with the most demanding data flows. These switches will operate alongside the Brocade 6510 Gen 5 Fibre Channel switches the Queensland Brain Institute is already using to handle its less demanding storage network requirements. "We have to conduct increasingly complex experiments with rapidly growing data sets to make research breakthroughs, with researchers employing the latest imaging techniques and technologies, as well as running analysis against an increasing number of data points," added Carroll. "With data already growing at several petabytes per year without any pattern, it's very difficult to predict data growth going forward in a dynamic research computing environment. This puts a premium on storage network scalability -- a requirement that Brocade's Gen 6 Fibre Channel technology is more than capable of meeting." The Brocade G620-based Fibre Channel fabric is part of an integrated storage solution alongside high-performance storage arrays from Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) and a high-end file server and preservation platform from Oracle (Hierarchical Storage Manager) to control the flow of data between storage layers. This next-generation storage infrastructure is designed to future-proof the institute by eliminating performance barriers and helping to deliver data processing on demand. This approach will enable scientists to have seamless access to the data they need to carry out the Queensland Brain Institute's important research. It also provides appropriate governance and preservation layers in an increasingly complex sector, in regard to reproducibility and immutability. "Gen 6 Fibre Channel delivers a huge leap in performance for organizations with demanding Big Data environments like the Queensland Brain Institute, particularly in the face of its rapidly evolving brain imaging technology and increasing data needs," said Jason Baden, senior director ANZ, Brocade. "Organizations can now confidently address performance, reliability, and scalability requirements for hyperscale virtualization, new data center architectures, and next-generation storage technologies." About Brocade Brocade ( : BRCD) networking solutions help the world's leading organizations turn their networks into platforms for business innovation. With solutions spanning public and private data centers to the network edge, Brocade is leading the industry in its transition to the New IP network infrastructures required for today's era of digital business. (http://www.brocade.com/) These products and features and their availability are subject to change at the sole discretion of Brocade, and Brocade shall have no liability for delay in the delivery or failure to deliver any of the products or features described herein. Brocade, the B-wing symbol, and MyBrocade are registered trademarks of Brocade Communications Systems, Inc., in the United States and in other countries. Other brands, product names, or service names mentioned of Brocade Communications Systems, Inc. are listed at http://www.brocade.com/en/legal/brocade-Legal-intellectual-property/brocade-legal-trademarks.html. Other brands, product names, service names or marks mentioned may belong to third parties.
News Article | December 15, 2016
Australian, South African and US researchers say that although the environmental movement is in shock at US President-elect Donald Trump's election victory and its implications, it is not all doom and gloom. "The environmental movement should proactively seize opportunities over the next four years," said lead author Dr Duan Biggs of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions and Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science (CBCS) at The University of Queensland. "China, Australia, Indonesia, Brazil and other countries have already indicated they will forge ahead with implementing the climate treaty signed in Paris irrespective of the US position." Writing today in Nature, Dr Biggs said withdrawal of the US federal government from the international environmental movement provided space and opportunity for other actors like cities, states, companies, and communities to take action. "The next four years will likely be challenging for the environmental movement, and megaphone diplomacy with the US government will be needed," he said. "But by proactively seizing opportunities, the environmental movement will be strengthened beyond a Trump presidency." Dr Biggs is also a senior research fellow with Griffith University's Environmental Futures Research Institute and Stellenbosch University, South Africa. Correspondence co-authors are Dr Kent Redford, of Archipelago Consulting and University of New England, Maine; UQ PhD student Hubert Cheung (CBCS) and Associate Professor James Watson of UQ's School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management and the Wildlife Conservation Society.
News Article | February 15, 2017
A remarkable 250 million-year-old "terrible-headed lizard" fossil found in China shows an embryo inside the mother -- clear evidence for live birth. Head of The University of Queensland's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and co-author Professor Jonathan Aitchison said the fossil unexpectedly provided the first evidence for live birth in an animal group previously thought to exclusively lay eggs. "Live birth is well known in mammals, where the mother has a placenta to nourish the developing embryo," Professor Aitchison said. "Live birth is also very common among lizards and snakes, where the babies sometimes 'hatch' inside their mother and emerge without a shelled egg." Until recently it was thought the third major group of living land vertebrates, the crocodiles and birds (part of the wider group Archosauromorpha) only laid eggs. "Indeed, egg-laying is the primitive state, seen at the base of reptiles, and in their ancestors such as amphibians and fishes," Professor Aitchison said. He said the new fossil was an unusual, long-necked marine animal called an archosauromorph that flourished in shallow seas of South China in the Middle Triassic Period. The creature was a fish-eater, snaking its long neck from side to side to snatch its prey. Its fossil was one of many astonishingly well-preserved specimens from new "Luoping biota" locations in south-western China. There were no known fossils like this (marine vertebrates of this age) from Australia. Lead author Professor Jun Liu from Hefei University of Technology China, said the researchers were "excited" when they first saw this embryonic specimen. "We were not sure if the embryonic specimen was the mother's last lunch or its unborn baby," Professor Liu said. "Upon further preparation and closer inspection, we discovered something unusual." He said the embryo was inside the mother's rib cage, and it faced forward; swallowed animals generally face backward because the predator swallows its prey head-first to help it go down its throat. Furthermore, the small reptile inside the mother was an example of the same species. "Further evolutionary analysis revealed the first case of live birth in such a wide group containing birds, crocodilians, dinosaurs and pterosaurs among others, and pushes back evidence of reproductive biology in the group by 50 million years," Professor Liu said. "Information on reproductive biology of archosauromorphs before the Jurassic Period was not available until our discovery, despite a 260 million-year history of the group." Professor Chris Organ from Montana State University said evolutionary analysis showed that this instance of live birth was also associated with genetic sex determination. "Some reptiles today, such as crocodiles, determine the sex of their offspring by the temperature inside the nest," he said. "We identified that Dinocephalosaurus, a distant ancestor of crocodiles, determined the sex of its babies genetically, like mammals and birds. "This new specimen from China rewrites our understanding of the evolution of reproductive systems." Professor Mike Benton of the University of Bristol said analysis of the evolutionary position of the new specimens showed no fundamental reason why archosauromorphs could not have evolved live birth. "This combination of live birth and genotypic sex determination seems to have been necessary for animals such as Dinocephalosaurus to become aquatic," he said. "It's great to see such an important step forward in our understanding of the evolution of a major group coming from a chance fossil find in a Chinese field." The work is part of ongoing wider collaborations between palaeontologists in China, the United States, the UK and Australia. The paper is published in the journal, Nature Communications.
News Article | December 8, 2016
Australia’s top climate scientists have come out in support of their American counterparts, in response to news that the incoming Trump Administration will scrap climate research at the country’s top research facility, NASA. Trump’s senior advisor on NASA, Bob Walker, announced the plans strip NASA’s Earth science division of funding on Wednesday, in a crackdown on what his team refers to as “politicised science”. The policy – and the language used to frame it – would be all too familiar to Australian climate scientists, who faced a similar attack on funding and staff of the world-leading CSIRO climate department, and the dismantling of the Climate Commission. In defense of the CSIRO cuts, the Organisation’s ex-venture capitalist CEO Larry Marshall said the national climate change discussion was “more like religion than science.” Here’s what Australia’s scientists are saying about Trump and NASA… “Just as we have seen in Australia the attack on CSIRO climate science under the Coalition government, we now see the incoming Trump administration attacking NASA,” said Professor Ian Lowe, Emeritus Professor of Science, Technology and Society at Griffith University and a former President of the Australian Conservation Foundation. “They obviously hope that pressure for action will be eased if the science is muffled. “But with temperatures in the Arctic this week a startling 20 degrees above normal, no amount of waffle can disguise the need for urgent action to decarbonise our energy supply and immediately withdraw support for new coal mines,” Prof Lowe said. “Why a world leader in Earth observation should do this is beyond rational explanation,” said David Bowman, a “fire scientist” and Professor of Environmental Change Biology at The University of Tasmania. “Earth observation is a non-negotiable requirement for effective, sustainable fire management and it will be provided by other sources if the US proceeds with this path, such as Europe, Japan and China,” Prof Bowman said. “So, effectively the US would be ceding intellectual ‘real estate’ to other nations that could quickly become dominant providers of essential information on fire activity.” Dr Megan Saunders, a Research Fellow in the School of Geography Planning and Environmental Management & Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science at The University of Queensland, said scrapping funding to climate research in NASA would be devastating. “Climate change is already causing significant disruptions to the earth system on which humanity relies, and urgent action on climate change is required around the globe. Cutting funding to NASA compromises our ability to cope with climate change sends a message that climate change is not being taken seriously,” Doctor Saunders said. “In many instances symptoms of climate change are occurring faster than predicted by models. For instance, NASA’s temperature records have shown that September 2016 was the warmest in 136 years of modern record keeping. NASA’s research on sea-level rise demonstrated that sea-level rise in the 21st century was greater than previously understood. NASA research in West Antarctica identified the fastest rates of glacier retreat ever observed.” Dr Liz Hanna, fellow of the National Centre for Epidemiology & Population Health at the Australian National University, and National Convenor Climate Change Adaptation Research Network for Human Health said that shutting down the science would not stop climate change. “All it will do is render people, communities and societies unprepared at even greater risk. …If Trump does not care about people’s lives, perhaps he might consider the drop in productivity that inevitably tracks temperature increases,” she said. “My advice to president-elect Trump is to look beyond his advisor Bob Walker’s comments and see exactly the important work done by the NASA Earth science division,” said Dr Helen McGregor, an ARC Future Fellow in the School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sciences at the University of Wollongong. “This is not ‘politically correct environmental monitoring’ as Walker asserts but is essential data to ensure society’s health and wellbeing. “As for climate change science, the division’s reports on global temperatures are solely based on robust data. What’s being politicised here is not the science but the story that the science tells: that the planet is warming. Let’s not shoot the messenger,” Dr McGregor said. “Will Mr Trump be taking his electorate with him once he’s finished with Earth?” asked Dr Paul Read, a Research Fellow in Natural Disasters at the University of Melbourne’s Sustainable Society Institute. “Mr Trump is about 10 years behind the public understanding of climate science, much less the scientific consensus. As the climate hits home here on Earth, his own support base could turn on him like snake with whiplash.” Buy a cool T-shirt or mug in the CleanTechnica store! Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech daily newsletter or weekly newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.