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

Omega-3 Controls Zinc In Brain

By Stephen Luntz

Light has been shed on one mechanism by which omega-3 fatty acids benefit the brain, but the research also indicates how much we still have to learn about the role of diet on brain health.

Light has been shed on one mechanism by which omega-3 fatty acids benefit the brain, but the research also indicates how much we still have to learn about the role of diet on brain health.

“Previous research has suggested that there is a link between low levels in the brain of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA –docosahexaenoic acid to give it its full name – and Alzheimer’s disease,” says Prof Leigh Ackland of Deakin Biomolecular Sciences. “Also, the incidence of neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s appears to be reduced in populations with a high omega-3 fatty acid diet.”

Early Cannabis Dangers Quantified

Girl being offered marijuana

Early Cannabis Dangers Quantified: iStockphoto

By Stephen Luntz

A study at the Queensland Brain Institute has confirmed the dangers of early cannabis use, revealing that users who start by the time they are 15 years old are three times as likely as non-users to experience psychosis by the age of 21.

A study at the Queensland Brain Institute has confirmed the dangers of early cannabis use, revealing that users who start by the time they are 15 years old are three times as likely as non-users to experience psychosis by the age of 21.

While the association of schizophrenia and cannabis use is well-known, it has not been easy to prove that the drug consumption is a cause of mental illness rather than a form of self-medication.

Early Autism Diagnosis Offers Hope

By Australasian Science Magazine

A new study has concluded that it is possible to diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) much earlier than normally occurs. Early intervention can significantly change the outcomes for children who are diagnosed at a younger age.

A new study has concluded that it is possible to diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) much earlier than normally occurs. Early intervention can significantly change the outcomes for children who are diagnosed at a younger age.

Koala Virus Gives Researchers a Live Look at the Evolution of Junk DNA in Humans

An international team of researchers believes that a virus infecting koalas could demonstrate how viruses have altered the DNA of humans and other species throughout history.

“Retroviruses insert their genome into their host’s chromosome, from where they make more copies of themselves,” explained Prof Paul Young of The University of Queensland. “Some can also infect what are known as germline cells, which alters the host genetic code and that of all their descendants.”

Electrical Stimulation Implant Bypasses Open Brain Surgery

Melbourne researchers have developed a permanent implantable device that electrically stimulates the brain from inside a blood vessel. The device, called a Stentrode, could lead to a range of potential treatments that currently require open brain surgery, including deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy and motor neurone disease.

Crowdsourced Algorithms Predict Epileptic Seizures

Crowdsourcing of more than 10,000 algorithms worldwide has enabled Melbourne researchers to predict clinically relevant epileptic seizures in a wider range of patients than previously possible.

Climate Biases Fossil Record of Early Humans

The fossil record of early humans from the Cradle of Humankind caves in South Africa is biased towards periods of drier climate, according to research published in Nature (https://goo.gl/GTEjTv). This finding suggests there might be gaps in the fossil record, potentially obscuring evolutionary patterns and affecting our understanding of both the habitats and dietary behaviours of early hominins in this region.

Reflux and heartburn treatments depress body iron levels

New research has found an association between some popular heartburn treatments and iron deficiency.

Heartburn is a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux, which is caused by hydrochloric acid rising into the throat. This condition affects more than two million Australians and is often treated with medications that suppress acid secretion.

Epilepsy Cure from a Tarantula

A key ingredient in tarantula venom has been identified as a potential treatment for a devastating form of genetic epilepsy.

Dravet syndrome affects young children before their first birthday. Children live with a range of very serious symptoms, including delayed mental and behavioural development, and daily seizures. The disease can result in early death.

Nanoparticles Light Up Deep-Tissue Cancers

Researchers have engineered nanoparticles that light up to reveal disease biomarkers found in deep tissue. The technology opens up a new avenue in minimally invasive disease diagnosis.