Research breakthroughs

Our work on cell death, drug resistant bacteria and cancer

Discovering the mechanisms of cell death

When cells become stressed or damaged they commit suicide by a finely controlled process known as apoptosis. The key players that determine cellular fate have been known for decades, but the mechanisms by which cells make their life and death decision are still being explored.

Dr Doug Fairlie, Dr Erinna Lee and Professor Brian Smith, together with collaborators at WEHI, provide the first definitive physiological evidence about this process. Their findings, published in Genes and Development, also provide new insights into the basis of cancer drug sensitivity. Read more.

Frogs may help fight bacteria

Antimicrobial peptides are nature's "magic bullets" that hunt bacteria at sites of potential infection. These peptides may help fight drug resistant bacteria, if more was known about their mechanism of action.

Dr Adam Mechler leads a research team that has described the antimicrobial action of a peptide originating from the Australian golden bell frog. Their findings, published in Scientific Reports, may lead to the development of a peptide that can protect humans, not just frogs, from life threatening infections. Read more.

Forcing cancer cells to self-destruct

Cell death, a process whereby normal cells are programmed to self-destruct, is critical to human development and good health. Cancer cells manage to evade this process. Finding ways to switch on this death mechanism, known as apoptosis, is key to fighting the disease.

Professor Brian Smith and PhD student Nicholas Smith are part of an international research team that have discovered a novel mechanism that forces cancer cells to self-destruct. Their findings, published in Nature Communications, may lead to new treatments for cancer. Read more.

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