How research breakthroughs at La Trobe are changing lives

How research breakthroughs at La Trobe are changing lives

When you’re choosing where to study, it’s important to find a university  whose world-class research matches your own interests. Maybe you’re curious about health, fascinated by the natural environment, or passionate about social change? Whatever captivates you, you want to be sure that your university’s concerned about it too.

La Trobe University is top-rated in 19 different fields of research, and we’re working to solve some of the major challenges and big issues of our time. Here’s a round-up of the top research projects we’ve undertaken in 2018.

Using humble plants to produce cheaper medicines on a large scale

Ever wondered how that box of Panadol sitting in your medicine cupboard is produced? It generally requires sophisticated chemical-based methods – a procedure that can be costly and low-yielding. In collaboration with The University of Queensland, a team led by renowned biochemist Professor Marilyn Anderson have developed a new technology that takes common plants such as lettuce to artificially produce the proteins used to make painkillers and cancer treatments. The result? An exciting new potential for a much more cost-effective way to turn plants into medicine factories for use in developing countries.

La Trobe researchers have come up with a cost-effective way to mass-produce medicines in developing countries – and it all starts with your everyday plants.

Using virtual reality goggles to make exercise easier for people with knee pain

We’re all aware that virtual reality goggles manipulate our vision, but did you know they can also trick how our brains control our muscles? La Trobe’s Dr Ebonie Rio from our Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre found that by strapping a set of VR goggles to knee pain patients while they exercised, patients’ brains were fed different information about muscle movement, which in turn reduced the pain they experienced. But knee pain is just the beginning – according to Dr Rio, these findings could be the key to motivating patients with a range of musculoskeletal conditions to perform their rehab exercises in their own time.

Finding a way to introduce ‘personalised’ IVF treatments

While we’ve seen some pretty incredible medical advancements over the years, IVF is one area that hasn’t changed much within the past decade. Now, a team of researchers led by Dr David Greening from the La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science, and Professor Lois Salamonsen from Hudson Institute, have begun researching the way an embryo communicates with a woman’s uterus, and the reasons behind why it does or doesn’t attach to the lining. Together, they hope to create IVF treatments that are essentially tailored to an individual woman’s cycle.

Researchers at the La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science are working hard to find ways to improve the success rates of natural and assisted pregnancies.

Injecting human amniotic cells into stroke patients to assist recovery

What if the cells that normally protect a foetus could help heal stroke patients? This seven-year research project led by La Trobe’s Professor Chris Sobey has unearthed the potential for a new treatment for stroke patients – one that involves injecting patients with the cells that line the human amniotic sac during pregnancy. Unlike other stroke treatments, which are highly time-critical, this one can be administered up to three days after a stroke occurs, proving to effectively reduce the impact of the stroke and improve recovery rates.

Understanding the long-term effects of repeated concussions

A knock to the head could have a bigger impact than you think, according to our concussion expert, Dr Alan Pearce. After conducting a study on 25 former NRL players who had all experienced repeated head injuries in their careers, Dr Pearce found that things like memory and dexterity suffered long-term impairment, while reaction times were up to 11 per cent slower compared to those who’d never suffered a concussion or head injury. Evidently, when it comes to the brain and contact sports, we need to start searching for more effective rehabilitation methods.

A La Trobe concussion expert has discovered that head injuries – particularly those sustained while playing contact sports – can lead to significant issues later in life, including impaired memory, dexterity and reaction times.

Transforming farmers’ understandings of their livestock with wearable tech

Usually, we leave wearable technology to humans, but researchers at La Trobe’s Centre for Technology Infusion have developed cutting-edge motion sensors for animals – a project that’s delivering significant economic benefits for farmers. Similar to Fitbits, the low-cost, low-weight motion sensors enable farmers to gain a much richer insight into their livestock’s behaviour, including causes of early deaths among lambs and poor growth in cattle.

Helping people with liver disease eat their way to an effective treatment

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is one disease that can’t yet be treated with drugs, meaning that what you eat is the only proven way to improve the condition. A La Trobe University research team have now come up with the first practical dietary guidelines for people living with this disease. From following a Mediterranean-style diet to stocking up on fish, nuts and seeds, the tips provide a tasty way to reduce the onset and progression of NAFLD.

Acknowledging the need for greater ‘separation equality’ for same-sex parents

Australia has legalised same-sex marriage, but what challenges do these couples still face? According to the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe, same-sex parents continue to struggle with issues surrounding separation – especially when it comes to finding lawyers and counsellors who can meet their needs. The study revealed that separating same-sex parents often miss out on the necessary support, suggesting the need to abolish a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

Australia still has substantial progress to make when it comes to equal rights for same-sex couples, according to the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe.


Feeling inspired? Join our world-class researchers and work on projects that make a real impact on people’s lives.