Research highlights

Ancient rites of cell death revealed

The similarities between altruistic cell death in ‘Trichoplax adhaerens’ – a tiny marine invertebrate that resembles an irregular hairy plate – and a similar but defective process in human cancer cells, provides unexpected insights into the development of a new generation of cancer drugs. The international research team, including Prof Marc Kvansakul and Prof Patrick Humbert from the La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science, published in Science Advances, used the Australian Synchrotron to characterise and image this ancient mechanism of cell self-sacrifice at the atomic level. Read more.

Fight against Sepsis

Sepsis or blood poisoning is a very serious disease without any cure. It causes almost 11 million deaths annually worldwide. There have been more than 100 clinical trials in the last 25 years without any success, mainly due to lack of understanding of the molecular basis of this disease. Using the new age gene editing technology (CRISPR), a team from LIMS lead by Dr Christina Nedeva and Associate Professor Hamsa Puthalakath identified and characterised the function of the receptor (TREML4) responsible for immune cell death during sepsis. Genetic ablation of this receptor leads to almost absolute protection from sepsis, sepsis-induced pneumonia and blood-born infection with Candida in cell based and in-vivo experiments. The research team identified the human equivalents of this receptor and work is underway to develop therapeutic antibodies against this receptor. Their findings were published in Nature Immonology.

Cell offer transplant hope

Researchers from the La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science have discovered that a particular cell plays an important role in the initiation of organ rejection. Around 150,000 organ transplants are performed worldwide each year, giving new hope to people suffering from chronic illness. In many cases, transplants work, saving the life of the person who receives the organ. But in other cases, the body treats the organ as foreign, mounts an immune attack, and rejects it. The research team, led by Dr Bin Li and Professor Weisan Chen, has identified the cell sub-set that initiates this unwanted immune response. Their findings were published in Immunology & Cell Biology.

Bacterial immune evasion

Antibiotics were hailed as a “miracle drug” but antibiotic resistant bacteria present a growing threat to society.  These bacteria can evade immune responses using transporter proteins, yet knowledge of the structure and function of these proteins remains limited. LIMS graduates, Monique Fatmous and Matthew Hein, working with Dr Udagedara, Dr Casas, Assoc Prof Maher and collaborators researched the structure and function of CDF c terminal domains from three infectious bacteria. Their findings, published in the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry, may lead to a greater understanding of bacterial immune evasion, and provide new leads for novel antibiotic therapies.