Research highlights

Long Covid brain fogPossible causes of long COVID brain fog

Brain fog can be one of the most frustrating and puzzling side effects of long-COVID. Recent research led by LIMS Hoogenraad Fellow, Dr Nick Reynolds, points to a connection between long-COVID and cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia. The study, published in Nature Communications, provides the first indications that some of the neurological symptoms in long-COVID may be caused by toxic clumps of protein. The protein clumps, known as amyloids, are similar to those that appear in the brain of people with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.


Time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) produces huge data sets that describe the molecular and atomic composition of surfaces. ToF-SIMS images show the distributions of these atoms and molecules on the surface, but are enormously complex and difficult to understand. PhD student Wil Gardner, Professor Dave Winkler and Professor Paul Pigram, with the CSIRO, have written a review exploring how advanced statistical and machine learning algorithms can be used to better understand and interpret ToF-SIMS images of organic and biological samples. Findings, published in Biointerphases, may help guide researchers who wish to better understand how such algorithms can best be applied to their own ToF-SIMS images, while also providing an overview of the field for new researchers to get started.

Smart microscope slides detect cancer

An innovative microscope slide, NanoMslide, developed at LIMS is promising to revolutionise medical imaging after researchers demonstrated that it can be used to detect breast cancer cells in patients.A study published in Nature demonstrates that by modifying the surface of conventional microscope slides at the nanoscale, biological structures and cells take on a striking colour contrast which can be used to instantly detect disease. Project lead, Professor Brian Abbey has spent the past five years developing the technology at La Trobe University with co-inventor Dr Eugeniu Balaur and Dr Belinda Parker at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

Discovery makes the invisible visible

LIMS scientists have discovered a new way to analyse microscopic cells, tissues and other transparent specimens, through the improvement of an almost 100-year-old imaging technique. A research team including Prof Brian Abbey, Dr Jacqueline Orian and Dr Eugeniu Balaur from LIMS along with scientists at the Peter McCallum Cancer Centre, the University of Melbourne, the Australian National University and IIT has the potential to advance research into the understanding and detection of disease. Project leader and La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science (LIMS) physicist, Professor Brian Abbey, said the discovery allows scientists to detect minute changes in the composition or structure of transparent or nano-thin objects, enabling their key features and structures to be visible when put under a microscope. Read their Nature Phonics paper.