Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Cover Story

Cover Story

Botulism Paralysed

Botox injection

Botox acts by paralysing small groups of muscles when injected in the face.

By Callista Harper & Frederic A. Meunier

A new class of inhibitors could prevent infection by a neurotoxin classified as a Category A biological weapon.

A/Prof Frederic A. Meunier is a NHMRC Senior Research Fellow and head of the Neuronal Trafficking Laboratory at the Queensland Brain Institute, University of Queensland. Callista Harper is a PhD student in his group.

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The Right Dose

Ethnic differences can have a significant impact on how people respond to drugs.

Ethnic differences in cooking styles, contraception, smoking, and caffeine and alcohol consumption can have a significant impact on how people respond to drugs.

By Vidya Perera & Andrew McLachlan

Diet and lifestyle are rarely considered when assessing how people respond differently to drugs, yet ethnic differences in cooking styles, contraception, smoking, and caffeine and alcohol consumption can have a significant impact – especially in treatments for mental health.

Vidya Perera is a doctoral student at the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Pharmacy. Professor Andrew McLachlan is Associate Dean of Research at the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Pharmacy, and Chair of Pharmacy (Aged Care) at Concord Hospital.

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Is It a Bird or a Dinosaur?

Archaeopteryx

Is it a bird? Is it a dinosaur? The exact position of Archaeopteryx in the evolutionary tree remains debated. Main Illustration by Nobumichi Tamura. Inset photo by Michael Lee

By Michael Lee

As a new specimen of Archaeopteryx is unveiled, scientists argue whether this famous creature is a true bird or just another bird-like dinosaur.

Michael Lee is senior research scientist at the South Australian Museum and the University of Adelaide.

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Artificial Photosynthesis: Feeding and Fuelling the Future

iStockphoto

Image: iStockphoto

By Thomas Faunce

A global scientific project using nanotechnology and synthetic biology to re-engineer photosynthesis may help solve our energy, food, water and greenhouse gas problems.

A/Prof Thomas Faunce is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow at the Australian National University. He was the scientific and administrative coordinator of the first international conference dedicated to creating a Global Artificial Photosynthesis project at Lord Howe Island in August 2011.

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How Was the Universe Born?

The universe in an hourglass

Image: iStockphoto

By Geraint Lewis

Modern cosmology tells us that the universe as we know it arose 13.7 billion years ago in the fiery birth of the Big Bang, but our understanding of the laws of physics is incomplete and we are currently unable to answer the questions of where the universe actually came from. Cosmologists have many ideas, ranging from the reasonably strange to the extremely outlandish.

Geraint Lewis is Professor of Astrophysics at The University of Sydney.

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How HIV Hides in the Brain

HIV-positive people are particularly susceptible to the early onset of dementia.

HIV-positive people are particularly susceptible to the early onset of dementia. Credit: Mehau Kulyk/Science Photo Library

By Lachlan Gray

With the introduction of the latest drugs and treatments, infection with HIV no longer represents a death sentence. However, HIV-positive people are particularly susceptible to the early onset of dementia and several other conditions of ageing, such as cardiovascular disease, frailty, cancers and bone disease. New research has found that when the HIV virus gets into the brain, it infects a key cell type, the astrocyte, leading to its dysfunction. This, in turn, triggers the development of HIV dementia, and at the same time provides HIV with a hideout where it is protected from the immune system and antiviral drugs.

Lachlan Gray is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Burnet Institute and Monash University.

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The Olympic Dam Story

Olympic Dam image courtesy BHP Billiton

It’s easy to think that the sheer size of Olympic Dam made its discovery inevitable. Image courtesy BHP Billiton

By David Upton

The discovery of the Olympic Dam mine is a story of innovative geologists who defied conventional thinking, and the corporate leaders who maintained faith in them.

David Upton is author of The Olympic Dam Story. This is an extract.

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Bloody Battle

Image © Commonwealth of Australia Department of Defence

Image © Commonwealth of Australia Department of Defence

By Geoffrey P. Dobson

Soldiers suffering catastrophic blood loss often die on the battlefield before they can be evacuated, but emerging science is targeting new ways to stabilise the heart and circulation to buy time and save lives.

Geoffrey P. Dobson is Personal Chair of the Heart Research Laboratory at James Cook University. He is the founding director of Hibernation Therapeutics Global Pty Ltd (www.adenocaine.com) and is the sole inventor on nine patents (issued and pending) relating to adenocaine. The research described here was recognised at the American Heart Association’s Resuscitation Science Symposium last year when he and MSc student Hayley Letson were awarded the best-of-the-best abstracts (trauma), and this year he was invited to present the resuscitation research at NATO’s Operations Medical Conference.

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The Mouse Is Not Enough

The invasive nature of embryo retrieval has necessitated the use of a mammalian

The invasive nature of embryo retrieval has necessitated the use of a mammalian species that reproduces rapidly and is inexpensive to house – the mouse.

By Peter Pfeffer and Debra Berg

Fundamental differences in embryonic development mean that research using mice may not be reliably applied to other mammals, and that cattle embryos may be a better model for stem cell studies in humans.

Peter Pfeffer and Debra Berg are Senior Scientists at Agresearch in Hamilton, New Zealand.

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It’s Evolution – But Not As We Know It

Cane toad

Perhaps some other process, not natural selection, is responsible for the evolved acceleration of the toad invasion.

By Rick Shine

The accelerating pace of the cane toad’s advance through tropical Australia has revealed a new mechanism of evolution.

Rick Shine is a Professor in Biology at the University of Sydney.

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