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

A Diabetes Treatment from Snail Venom

The 3D structure of an insulin found in cone snail venom has revealed how these highly efficient natural proteins can operate faster than human insulin.

The research, conducted using the Australian Synchrotron, discovered that the Con-Ins G1 protein was able to bind to human insulin receptors, signifying the potential for its translation into a human therapeutic agent.

3D Cell Growth Opens New Path for Spinal Cord Repair

A novel technique to grow cells in three dimensions, without the traditional restrictions of matrix or scaffolds, has opened a new avenue to repair damaged spinal cords.

Dr James St John of Griffith University’s Eskitis Institute for Drug Discovery used floating liquid marbles to enable cells to freely associate and form natural structures just like they would normally within the human body.

Warning over Herbal Medicine Side-Effects

St John’s wort, a herbal treatment for depression, can produce the same adverse reactions as the antidepressant fluoxetine, with potentially serious side-effects when the two are taken together, according to a study published in Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology.

Children Struggle to Tell When Emotions Are Faked

Research published in Frontiers in Psychology has found that children are unable to tell the difference between genuine and fake sadness from facial expressions – even by the time they leave primary school. However, for happy facial expressions they could distinguish genuine from fake emotions to some extent.

Judas Camels Betray Feral Friends

A single camel can betray the whereabouts of its companions, leading to a useful method to control feral camel numbers in Australia’s outback. The technique relies on the social nature of dromedary camels, which number around one million in remote areas of arid central Australia and threaten biodiversity, agriculture and biosecurity in these regions.

Antidepressants and Breastfeeding Can Mix

Women on antidepressant medication are more successful at breastfeeding their babies if they keep taking the medication, according to research presented at the 18th annual conference of the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand.

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