5 Feb 2016

Video of the week: FODMAP animation - 30,000 views and counting!

The Monash Department of Gastroenterology's new video describing how FODMAPs in diet cause bloating in IBS sufferers was released on 14 December 2015. Since then, it has clocked up 30,000+ views, maintaining a steady average of between 400-500 views per day. It's an excellent tool for the Department, enabling a public understanding of the problem, based on rigorous research, and pointing the public to the Department's low FODMAP app, which is the highest selling medical app in Australia and now downloaded in over 100 countries worldwide.

Forthcoming CCS events: Seminars, public events, general notices

Timothy Patton presenting at the
2015 CCS postgrad symposium
Central Clinical School has regular seminar series and postgraduate presentations. All event notices are maintained on the CCS Events calendar.

CCS staff & students can see details of both public and local events (including professional development courses, trade fairs and Graduate Research Student calendars) and deadlines, at the Intranet's Announcements page.

Various departments have their own calendars. See CCS seminar index: www.med.monash.edu.au/cecs/events/seminars.html

What's on for this coming week: 08-12 Feb 2016

Wed 10-Feb 11:30 Immunology Seminar Series : Dr Lev Kats
Fri 12-Feb 12:30 Cutting Edge Journal Club 

In the Future

Immunology "Cutting Edge" Friday seminars kicking off 5 Feb

Maria Demaria at the 2015 Day
of Immunology GTAC workshop
"Cutting Edge Immunology” sessions were initiated in 2015, in which an important new paper in the broad field of immunology is discussed each week by young scientists as part of their training in reading, presenting and discussing new and significant research. This continues in 2016 and the first session is on Friday 5 Feb.

Welcome to David Tarlinton, new HOD of Immunology & Pathology!

We welcome Professor David Tarlinton, our new Head of Department of Immunology and Pathology in the Faculty of Medicine, based at the Central Clinical School. David is one of Australia's foremost B-cell immunologists and comes to us after a very successful time at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

David's research interests particularly focus on B cell memory - what triggers the formation of memory; and how, in the case of autoimmune diseases such as lupus, memory might be reversed so the immune system is no longer primed.

Congratulations to Professor Robyn O'Hehir for being awarded the Order of Australia

Congratulations to Professor Robyn O'Hehir for being awarded the Order of Australia at Officer level on Australia Day 2016. The Officer of the Order of Australia is awarded for distinguished service of a high degree to Australia or humanity at large and is to recognise outstanding achievement and service. The Order of Australia was awarded to Professor O'Hehir for "...distinguished service to clinical immunology and respiratory medicine as an academic and clinician, to tertiary education, and to specialist health and medical organisations”. 

Congratulations to Alfred researchers on MIME funding

The Monash Institute of Medical Engineering (MIME) has announced its 2015 Seed Funding Awardees, to which over $700,000 has been disbursed in research project support. The projects will be undertaken in collaboration with researchers in the Faculties of Engineering and IT.

The Central Clinical School recipients were:

Professor Mark Fitzgerald (National Trauma Research Institute)   
  • Chest trauma: Develop semi-automated device for emergency drainage of blood in the chest cavity (pleural decompression device)    
  • Trauma resuscitation: Develop wireless heads-up display for real-time decision support in trauma situations   
Professor Anton Peleg (Department of Infectious Diseases)

  • Hospital-acquired infections: Develop surface coatings for medical devices that resist the attachment of organisms and establishment of biofilms, particularly antibiotic resistance biofilms

Adjunct Professor Bruce Thompson (Allergy, Immunology and Respiratory Medicine )

  • Asthma treatment: Development and testing of a nebulizer with “dial up” particle size control that can target small airways, improving the treatment of asthma   
Professor Andrew Spencer (Australian Centre for Blood Diseases)

  • Multiple myeloma diagnostic tool: Develop a diagnostic test for detecting circulating tumour DNA for use in primary healthcare



MIME PhD Scholarship support

MIME also funds PhD scholarships so students can be recruited to work with researchers. Successful researchers from CCS were: 

Dr Heather Cleland, Mr Stephen Goldie (Department of Surgery)

  • Burn injuries: Develop a tissue engineered skin substitute, which will enable rapid and permanent wound closure, as well as functional and aesthetic reconstruction   

Dr Stephen Ting (Australian Centre for Blood Diseases)

  • Leukemia stem cell detection: Single cell identification, separation, isolation and assay of bone marrow and leukemia stem cells     

Professor Mark Fitzgerald (National Trauma Research Institute)   
  • Trauma resuscitation – develop wireless heads-up display for real-time decision support   
Professor David Kaye (Department of Medicine, Baker IDI)
  • Heart attack: Develop 3D-printed muscle patch for heart repair

Welcome to our 2016 Honours and BMedSc(Hons) students!

Welcome to our 48 new Honours students for 2016!

Central Clinical School will be holding orientation sessions for our 2016 Honours (Immunology, medical biology and human pathology) and Bachelor of Medical Science (Honours) cohorts (30 and 18 respectively) on Thursday 25 Feb and Monday 29 Feb 2016. See calendar entries through the links above for full details about what is covered. We will be publishing updates and student lists to their web pages.

For more information, contact Laisa Tigarea, CCS Student Services Officer on laisa.tigarea@monash.edu or ph 990 30027. See more about CCS education at www.med.monash.edu.au/cecs/education/index.html.

Monash discovery central to record-breaking licensing deal

Professor Stephen Jane, Head of Central
Clinical School, Monash University
A suite of drugs developed by the Cancer Therapeutics Cooperative Research Centre (CTx) from early Monash research has just been licensed to global healthcare leader MSD, known as Merck in the US and Canada, in what is believed to be one of the largest preclinical licensing deals involving an Australian discovery.

The drugs – which are inhibitors of protein arginine methyltransferase 5 (PRMT5) – have potential clinical applications in both cancer and non-cancer blood disorders.

The importance of PRMT5 was first discovered by Professor Stephen Jane, Head of the Monash Central Clinical School, who initiated the search for inhibitory drugs.

Unlocking the brain with new stimulation technologies

Associate Professor Kate Hoy
Brain connectivity and neuroplasticity are increasingly investigated and becoming better understood, and the insights are being employed with new technologies for treatment of cognitive disorders and brain injuries.

In this article, Elouise Brennan interviews A/Prof Kate Hoy of the Monash Alfred Psychiatry research centre on how the techniques of transcranial direct current stimulation and transcranial magnetic stimulation are being used for schizophrenia, Alzheimer's and depression. Link to full story.

Predicting patients who require large blood transfusions

By Dr Jodie Abramovitch

Loss of large volumes of blood is responsible for a third of all deaths associated with trauma. The only way to treat a loss of blood, also known as haemorrhagic shock, is via transfusion of blood products. Some trauma patients require transfusion with incredibly large amounts of blood – a massive transfusion (MT) - and their survival may depend on the timely delivery of blood or blood products.  

Director of the National Trauma Research Institute
and senior author Professor Mark Fitzgerald
To create a robust system that allows for the prediction of patients who may require MT, researchers from Monash University and the Alfred Hospital (Trauma Centre, National Trauma Research Institute, Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine and Ambulance Victoria) explored whether use of a ‘shock index’ (SI) calculated before and after arrival at hospital could predict MT. SI is calculated simply by measuring heart rate and dividing it by measured systolic blood pressure.

Of the 6990 major trauma patients who presented at the Alfred Hospital between 2006 - 2012, 5.2% (360 patients) received MT. By using a number of statistical models it was shown that a SI calculated before arrival at hospital was able to significantly improve prediction of MT. Combining the SIs calculated before and after arrival at hospital was only slightly better at predicting MT than the SI measured after arrival at hospital alone.

Considering these observations it was concluded that the SI is a simple option to assist with the prediction of MT. However further study is warranted to validate the SI prospectively. The development and implementation of computer-assisted data collection and prognostication may further enhance the utility of the SI in predicting MT.

Reference: Olaussen APeterson ELMitra BO'Reilly GJennings PAFitzgerald MMassive transfusion prediction with inclusion of the pre-hospital Shock Index. Injury  2015 May: 46;822-6. 
doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2014.12.009

Reducing cardiac fibrosis

By Dr Jodie Abramovitch

Cardiac fibrosis (scarring) causes the heart to become stiff which affects the ability of the heart to function normally. Cardiac fibrosis can lead to heart failure and is associated with a range of health problems including hypertension, diabetes and obesity.

Dr Anthony Dear
A new class of therapeutics used to treat diabetes, known as glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1R) agonists, help regulate glucose levels in the body. There is evidence that some GLP-1R agonists are able to improve vascular disease in mouse models.

Monash researchers from the Eastern Health Clinical School and the Department of Pharmacology, overseen by Dr Anthony Dear (also associated with the Australian Centre for Blood Diseases) have investigated the effect of a GLP-1R agonist on cardiac fibrosis in a number of different pathological settings.  The recently published work showed that mice with hypertension, obesity, or age induced cardiac fibrosis had reduced evidence of cardiac fibrosis following treatment with a GLP-1R agonist, regardless of diabetic status. Furthermore, reduced levels of inflammatory markers were found within the hearts of treated animals. This reduction in inflammation may be the mechanism behind the observed reduction in cardiac fibrosis.

These results show that GLP-1R agonists may have success in treating cardiac fibrosis, regardless of pathological cause (i.e. hypertension, obesity or age), in humans.

Reference: Gaspari T, Brdar M, Lee HW, Spizzo I, Hu Y, Widdop RE, Simpson RW, Dear AE. Molecular and cellular mechanisms of glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist-mediated attenuation of cardiac fibrosis. Diab Vasc Dis Res. 2016 Jan: 13;56-68.
doi: 10.1177/1479164115605000.

Anaphylaxis to oats – link between food-based moisturisers and food allergy

By Dr Jodie Abramovitch

Food allergy is a growing health issue and, for those affected, can be associated with serious medical outcomes. Allergic reactions to food can range from relatively mild (swelling, rashes) to potentially life threatening (anaphylaxis). 

Allergy Research Group:
(back) L-R Jade Jaffar, Nirupama Varese
Jennifer Rolland (Head), Robyn O'Hehir (Head), Jodie Abramovitch
(front) L-R Sara Prickett, Tracy Phan
Researchers within the Department of Allergy, Immunology and Respiratory Medicine (AIRMed) and the Department of Immunology and Pathology have recently published an interesting case study on oat allergy. A female patient presented with anaphylaxis following consumption of oats in an apple crumble crust. Analysis of the patient’s clinical history noted that, whilst previously able to eat oats without incident, she had been using an oat-based moisturiser to soothe her eczema (broken skin). The patient had also experienced some allergic symptoms (difficulty in breathing) in response to the moisturiser as well as an oat-based bath product.

Experiments were able to show that the patient had oat-specific IgE antibodies (a diagnostic marker of allergy) within her blood. In the presence of oat extract or the oat-containing products, these antibodies were able to activate the patient's basophils, an important cell type activated during an allergic reaction, indicating that they were indeed leading to clinical symptoms when the patient was exposed to oat.

Combined with the clinical history, these data suggest that the patient was sensitised to oat via the application of oat-based products to broken skin. As quoted in a previous article published within this blog, the head of AIRMed and senior author of this case study Professor O’Hehir states that: “This new study adds extra evidence to the argument for skin care preparations to be bland and to avoid agents capable of sensitisation, especially foods.”

Reference: Radhakrishna N, Prickett S, Phan T, Rolland JM, Puy R, O'Hehir RE. Anaphylaxis to oats after cutaneous sensitization by oatmeal in skin products used for the treatment of atopic dermatitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2016 Jan-Feb: 4;152-3
doi: 10.1016/j.jaip.2015.07.005

Development of intestinal gas capsules

By Dr Jodie Abramovitch

Many types of gases are produced within our digestive systems. Alterations in the type and amount of these gases can alter gut function, and potentially be a sign of disease.

Professor Peter Gibson - Head of the
Department of Gastroenterology
In a cross-disciplinary collaborative project including Monash researchers from the Department of Gastroenterology, a new intestinal gas capsule has been developed. These capsules has been designed to be swallowed so as to allow access to the gut in a non-invasive manner. Here they can sample the gases present and transmit their concentration and location (based on time lapsed following ingestion of the capsule) within the gut.

To test the capsules, pigs on high or low fibre diets were given the capsules. Pigs on a high fibre diet had higher concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and lower hydrogen gas (H2) within their gastrointestinal tract than pigs given a low fibre diet. These findings were consistent with previous studies which measured gases in the guts of pigs on low and high fibre diets using classical (more invasive) techniques. As such, this study has shown that intestinal gas capsules can effectively provide information on the "where and what" regarding gas production in the gut, information that can only be determined presently by invasive techniques that are not possible to perform on humans.

Though the capsules require further refinement before they can be considered for use in humans, this study has shown that they have great potential to effectively and non-invasively detect gases within the gut. This will allow for a better understanding of the physiology of the gut  and permit easier detection and assessment of gut disorders within the clinic and inform treatment options.

ReferenceKalantar-Zadeh KYao CKBerean KJHa NOu JZWard SAPillai NHill JCottrell JJDunshea FRMcSweeney CMuir JGGibson PR. Intestinal gas capsules: a proof-of-concept demonstration. Gastroenterology. 2016 Jan: 150;37-9
doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2015.07.072

Applications Open: Graduate Certificate in Translational Research

Translational research short course group
Monash is inviting applications for Graduate Certificate in Translational Research. This is a 24 credit point course which can be completed within 0.5 year FT or 1 year PT. 

There are four units - Bioethics Theory and Practice, Introductory Biostatistics, Introduction to Clinical Trials and Translational Research.

Participants sought: A2 milk, IBS and constipation

Participants are sought for a study investigating whether A2 milk influences constipation in IBS sufferers. The study aims to determine whether A2 Milk improves symptoms of constipation in people with non-diarrhoea predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The research involves working with both healthy people and those with non-diarrhoea predominant IBS.

You may be eligible to participate if:
  • you are healthy with no GI complaints OR
  • you have non-diarrhoea predominant IBS

5 Feb Deadline: Learning and Teaching Research Grant Scheme 2016

The Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and  Health Sciences Learning & Teaching Research Grant Scheme (L&T RGS) is an initiative to assist in the development of high quality learning and teaching research activity in the Faculty.

The scheme is funded to the value of $200,000 with individual grants of up to $20,000 being available although research for smaller amounts for targeted activities are encouraged. Funding will be for 1 year commencing 1 March 2016.

Expected outcomes from the L&T RGS would include data collection that enabled the research team to apply for external national competitive grants, publications in high quality peer reviewed journals and implementation of new L&T activities in the Faculty.  Cross discipline collaborative projects are encouraged.

·        Submission Deadline: COB 5 February 2016.
Further details and application form available at http://www.med.monash.edu.au/intranet/education/ Under Teaching Grants and Outcomes,  Learning & Teaching Research Grant Application

·      Please send completed applications to fmnhs-dde@monash.edu

Perspectives on Women in Science

A recent publication in Baker IDI's Perspectives has focused on Women In Science. The article by A/Professor Rebecca Ritchie and Professor Bronwyn Kingwell was also published on Women’s Agenda last month.

A/Prof Rebecca Ritchie (left) and
Professor Bronwyn Kingwell (right)
"It is widely agreed that there is a great deal more work to be done to improve the representation of women at senior levels in Australian medical research. In this edition of Perspectives, we focus on gender inequality in the Australian science sector and explore how individuals and organisations are taking steps to effect change."

This publication is digital-only and is available via the Baker IDI website.

Odd spot: Multitasking is a myth - neuroscientists explain why

US TV program 'Today' asked two top neuroscientists at MIT, Earl Miller and Bob Desimone the following questions. See the article for Earl's answers, and the video for both scientists' explanations.
  • Does using devices change how the brain functions?
  • Why do devices so easily distract people?
  • Why is multitasking a problem?
  • Why do we think we are better at multitasking than we really are?
  • What are some ways to combat digital distractions?
"Focus on one thing at a time. If I am writing a paper and working and I am checking my email every minute, I am incurring a switch cost every minute." Earl Miller.

Link: www.today.com/health/multitasking-doesn-t-work-why-focus-isn-t-just-hocus-t69276

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