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

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.

Whale's Wails Are Out of Tune

Blue and fin whales are among the loudest animals in the oceans, as well as the largest. Only males sing, and their songs can travel more than 1000 km underwater, allowing them to communicate across vast oceans.

Blue whales have been dropping pitch incrementally over several decades, and now a study in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans (https://goo.gl/dEGvqJ) has announced that this is also occurring with fin whales and Madagascan pygmy blue whales – and speculated why this might be occurring.

Genetic Bottlenecks as Gloomy Octopus Drifts South

A species of octopus previously confined to eastern Australian waters is extending its range south, riding a new wave of warm water as ocean currents change. In a study published in Scientific Reports (https://goo.gl/tLH5Hk), researchers have examined the genetic processes associated with the gloomy octopus’ range shift.