Research highlights

On the trail of evolution

Professor Coral Warr is on the trail of evolutionary investigation, applying fundamental molecular genetic approaches to understand how flies adapt to their environment. Recent research from the Warr Lab suggests genetic changes in a specific olfactory receptor gene in Drosophila flies alters important behaviours such as where they lay their eggs. Professor Warr’s findings add to a growing body of work that suggest this receptor is of particular importance in the ecology of different Drosophila species and has contributed to their ability to adapt and utilise different host plants. Professor Warr hopes her work in insect olfaction may lead to novel ways to modify pest insect behaviour. Read more in Open Biology

Combatting long term effects of COVID-19

Professors Patrick Humbert and Marc Kvansakul from LIMS are the first in the world to characterise precisely how COVID-19 attacks lung tissues – an important step in preventing long-term damage in COVID-19 patients.  Using powerful beams of light at the Australian Synchrotron, the researchers were able to produce images of how the SARS-CoV-2 E binds to and hijacks Pals1, a key protein found in human tissue. Read more in Communications Biology.

What do SARS-CoV-2 and the common cold have in common?

Research led by Professor Stephanie Gras and her team at LIMS reveals that catching the common cold might help our immune cells to “see” the SARS-CoV-2 virus before catching it. Exposure to a winter cold may increase our chances of developing an immune response against SARS-CoV-2. This research, published in Immunity, will help scientists better understand how immune cells recognise this new coronavirus and how a response could be manipulated to boost immunity, and potentially explore a new vaccine strategy.

Hope for rheumatoid arthritis treatment

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that can cause severe pain and erode quality of life. Australian scientists from LIMS – including Professor Andrew Hill and Dr Lesley Cheng, in collaboration with Dr Andrew Foers (WEHI and MCRI), are focussing on possible therapeutic approaches through investigating the role of extracellular vesicles. Understanding how extracellular vesicles and their contents contribute to molecular processes in rheumatoid arthritis may improve treatment options. The researchers profiled miRNA within extracellular vesicles from the joints of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, revealing pathways that contribute to joint destruction. Their findings, published in International Journal of Molecular Sciences, uncover promising therapeutic approaches for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

Fight against CJD

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that leads to dementia and ultimately death. Currently, CJD can only be definitively diagnosed through a brain biopsy or at autopsy. Professor Andy Hill and Dr Lesley Cheng have identified cell particles in the blood, known as extracellular vesicles, that contain distinct markers that aid in the earlier diagnosis of CJD. Read more of their study, originally published in Communications Biology.