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La Trobe University is the place for those who are all kinds of clever. Our graduates and staff are renowned for their understanding of the most pressing challenges facing the global community, and for their ability to address those challenges head-on.
In the past year alone, La Trobe researchers have pioneered a number of research breakthroughs with significant, real-world benefits. Here are four of our biggest, boldest and brightest ideas from the past twelve months.
1. Dance with Me
La Trobe’s Professor Meg Morris led a global study into dance and exercise as powerful medicine for those living with Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative neurological disorder affecting a person’s ability to control their body’s movements.
‘We think dancing can improve mobility and reduce the number of falls in people with Parkinson’s,’ Morris said.
‘When we put on the music and ask them to dance, they’re less rigid. Likewise if we them to sing in time with the music, they are able to do that. A lot can be done through physical activity and exercise.’
La Trobe scientists made a game-changing discovery when they pinpointed the cause of cachexia, the muscle wasting disease that kills up to one third of cancer patients. Previously it was thought weight-loss was due to cancer consuming the body, but our scientists discovered the molecule Fn14 triggers the disease. By blocking Fn14, they could stop the cachexia regardless of the presence of a tumour.
The discovery brings the researchers closer to finding a way to stop cachexia and may have potential to also help fight cancer directly. In some cases, treatment with the ‘antibody’ therapy that blocked the cachexia also slowed the growth of the tumours.
Drawing on research by La Trobe’s Josephine Barbaro’s research, our Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre in partnership with Salesforce developed a free app for parents to help with early diagnosis of autism. The app, AsDetect, gives parents access to video footage from actual clinical assessments and expected key behaviours of children at each age.
In June 2016, our autism app won the Project of the Year iAward in the Research and Development Category. Since its launch in February 2016, the app has had more than 6,000 registered users and had over 3,700 assessments undertaken to date.
4. Confidence Gap and Self-Efficacy
La Trobe’s Professor Amalia Di Iorio has chaired forums across the state to discuss the concept of the ‘confidence gap’ holding women back from leadership roles. Rather than ‘lacking confidence’, Professor Di Iorio says, instead, women should aim for ‘self-efficacy’. ‘You can be supremely confident you’re going to fail at something. Whereas self-efficacy is around your capabilities and believing you’re able to be successful and achieve your objectives,’ she has said.
Di Iorio would like to see more women in leadership roles and negotiating their salary and for those in positions of power she encourages people to look around and see how they can help other women develop self-efficacy.
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