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A round-up of the latest science and news from Australasia.

Epigenetic Signatures Predict Breast Cancer Aggression

Newly identified epigenetic signatures could help clinicians tell the difference between highly aggressive and more benign forms of triple-negative breast cancer.

A Nature Communications study comparing how DNA is methylated in breast cancer and healthy cells found “distinct methylation patterns” in the primary biopsy breast cancer cells that indicated better or worse prognosis.

Vinegar Exacerbates Jellyfish Stings

While vinegar is currently the recommended first aid treatment for box jellyfish stings in tropical Australia, new research published in the Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine Journal has found that it can increase discharge of the creature’s venom.

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Inherited Alzheimer’s Damage Begins Decades before Symptoms

The progression of Alzheimer’s disease may actually slow once symptoms appear, according to a study investigating an inherited form of the disease.

In research published in Science Translational Medicine, Professor Colin Masters of the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health has found that rapid neuronal damage begins 10–20 years before symptoms appear. “As part of this research we have observed other changes in the brain that occur when symptoms begin to appear. There is actually a slowing of the neuro­degeneration,” Masters said.

A Universe Less Dusty

By Stephen Luntz

An exceptional galaxy has cast doubt on our conception of the early universe and the way in which galaxies form.

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Hoodwinked by a Giant Sunfish

An elusive species of ocean sunfish has been discovered by an international team of researchers led by Murdoch University PhD student Marianne Nyegaard.

Ocean sunfishes are the heaviest and most distinctive of all bony fishes, with some species weighing in excess of 3 tonnes and growing to 3 metres in length. The newly discovered species, named the hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta), is thought to approach a similar size.

“Alternative RNA” Switches Reptile Gender

Many reptiles don’t have sex chromosomes like humans and other mammals. Instead, their gender is set by the temperature at which their eggs are incubated. Researchers studying Australia’s bearded dragon lizard have now discovered the master switch by which this occurs: a temperature-sensitive molecular signature in a family of genes that control the expression of many other genes. The findings have been published in Science Advances.

Fertilisers Make Plants Weaker

As well as causing soil damage and environmental problems from run-off, research published in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B (http://tinyurl.com/hzwkj58) has found that nitrogen-based fertilisers also reduce a plant community’s resistance to fungal diseases. The researchers warn that prolonged use of artificial fertilisers can lead to the extinction of the most resistant plant species in a community, making the remaining species more susceptible to diseases.