Research highlights

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.

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.

Visualising protein density

Every cell in the human body is packed with proteins: they are essential for the maintenance of body function. Understanding how proteins interact in the cell is, therefore, critical to understanding health and disease. Dr Yuning Hong, together with collaborators from the University of Melbourne, has developed new technology based on small chemical probes that allow scientists to examine how changes in the cellular environment influence protein density in the cell. Their findings, published in ChemComm, provide researchers with an innovative new tool for drug development.