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

Molecules Inhibit Cancer Metastasis and Multiple Sclerosis

An international team of scientists has identified potential inhibitors of cell membrane proteins involved in the spread of cancer to other parts of the body, and in the progression of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

The newly identified molecules strongly inhibit the action of the two chemokine receptors CXCR4 and ACKR3, which work together to regulate cell migration and are thus important in both cancer metastasis and autoimmune disease. The variant that bound most strongly to the CXCR4 receptor inhibited multiple sclerosis in a laboratory study.

How Much Weight Do Quitters Gain?

Fear of weight gain is a commonly cited reason for not quitting smoking, despite evidence that quitting will result in better overall health.

Now researchers at the University of Tasmania’s Menzies Institute for Medical Research have quantified the weight gain for smokers who quit, and the difference in weight gain between quitters and continuing smokers.

Early Signs of Arthritis in the Mouth

A common gum disease may indicate a person’s risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis later in life, according to a report published in Medical Hypotheses.

Toad-Proof Fence

Toad-proof fences around dams can prevent the pests from cooling down in the hot, arid zones of Australia, killing them in large enough numbers to stop their spread. “This is the first study to demonstrate long-term control of cane toads,” says A/Prof Mike Letnic of UNSW

New Life for Old Malaria Drug

Chloroquine could be given a new lease of life as an anti-malarial treatment simply by being administered differently.

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Fluorescent Biosensor Lights Up Cancer

Researchers from the Garvan Institute have developed a mouse that expresses a fluorescing biosensor in every cell of its body, allowing diseased cells and drugs to be tracked and evaluated in real time and in three dimensions.

The biosensor mimics the action of a target protein known as Rac, which drives cell movement in many types of cancer. Rac behaves like a switch: when it’s active, the biosensor picks up chemical cues and glows blue. When Rac is inactive the biosensor glows yellow.

Using sophisticated imaging techniques it is possible to follow Rac activation in any organ at any time, or watch moment-by-moment oscillation of Rac activity at the front or back of cells as they move in the body. This technology has been used to monitor Rac activity in many organs in response to drug treatment.

Penguins Retreat from Sea-Ice

By Stephen Luntz

For the first time, emperor penguins have been found nesting on ice shelves, sometimes 40 metres above the ocean rather than the much lower sea-ice they normally frequent.

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