NEWS

Dr.Jane Johnson from Macquarie University in Sydney has been awarded a highly prestigious Future Fellowship for the project: Rethinking animals in research: Developing a novel ethical framework. Current approaches to ethics and nonhuman animals face challenges addressing many of the problems that arise in animal research intended for human clinical benefit. These problems are significant and include: harms to animals and to research workers, poor translation of results from animals to humans leading to ineffective treatments, poorly developed future research efforts and the wasted contribution of research participants. This project addresses these challenges by developing a radically new empirically informed relational approach to animals in research. The new approach will deliver a framework that minimises harms to animals and humans, and improves the quality of results from experiments. Benefits will include a more ethically robust practice of animal research and more targeted deployment of finite research resources.

See: https://issues.org/lost-in-translation-animal-research-fails-johnson

heart research

An important new finding has emerged from work done on frozen human hearts at the molecular level. Researchers at the Heart Research Institute have worked out why male and female hearts fail in different ways. The Institute is in the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney where there is a heart bank housing heart samples. (A previous novel finding from this centre was that hearts can grow new cells.) The new finding will lead to new detection methods for heart problems especially in women and potentially to new treatments.

COVID-19

Some human-centred research on the coronavirus:

Three-dimensional reconstructed human respiratory tissue models, such as those from Epithelix (https://www.epithelix.com/) can be used to study COVID-19 infection and screen for potential treatments.

Researchers at the University of Bristol are growing the virus in cells to gain a better understanding of the way it spreads and causes sickness. Using this technique, they can find out whether it mutates under certain conditions. This work provides crucial information about how the virus causes disease.

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US are using Summit - a supercomputer - to identify existing drugs that could be effective in treating COVID-19 in humans. Based on the physical properties of the virus and of each drug, the computer predicts how the two might interact. The effectiveness of promising drugs can then be measured by testing them on cells infected with the virus.

Sydney scientists at Royal North Shore Hospital have set up a new trial to investigate whether existing blood pressure medications (angiotensin receptor blockers) can stop the coronavirus from infiltrating the body’s cells. The research is supported by other national and international institutions. The aim is to enrol 600 patients in the trial to see whether the drugs can reduce severity and length of COVID-19 infection in hospitalised patients.

Many new educational and training opportunities are opening in immunisation and epidemiology. Contact the National Centre for Immunisation research and surveillance. NCIRS@healthnsw.gov.au

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