Image: Kathy Townsend.

Barry the green sea turtle soon will return to the ocean around North Stradbroke Island, thanks to the speedy intervention of several wildlife professionals.

The University of Queensland’s Moreton Bay Research Station, the Quandamooka Rangers, Sea World, and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service all worked together to save the 49cm turtle, who had a severe case of floating syndrome.

Moreton Bay Research Station Education Officer Kathy Townsend said Barry was so listless when she first saw him that she thought he had died in transport.

“He was suffering from extreme dehydration and about half his scutes − the large scales covering the shell − had severe UV damage and had lifted off,” Townsend said. Continue reading

Early canine cancer succes

IMG_1169A University of Queensland trial of a new injectable treatment for canine cancer has shown early results in slowing down and ultimately reversing the growth of a tumour.

UQ PhD candidate and veterinarian Moira Brennan said the vaccine was in the early stages of testing and had apparently worked for its first patient, a dog with an inoperable terminal mast cell tumour.

The treatment, which stimulates an immune response in the tumour, has been tolerated exceedingly well in the first dog trialled – a rottweiler named Jackson,” Brennan said.

We were pleased that Jackson’s tumour, which had failed to respond to traditional chemotherapy, appears to have disappeared as a result of this experimental treatment.”

The long-term effects of the treatment are unknown, and Brennan is recruiting other dogs with untreatable mast cell tumour or malignant melanoma to join this trial. Continue reading Early canine cancer succes

UQ’s batty breakthrough

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Bryan Fry: Picture UQ

Venom from vampire bats and other creatures is providing the basis for medical breakthroughs following the discovery of various ways bats can prevent blood clots.

The University of Queensland’s Professor Bryan Fry is leading an international team who have discovered new types of anticoagulants and new compounds that open arteries to assist blood flow.

Fry said the venom of the common vampire bat from Central and South America has much potential for use in drug development for treatment of stroke, heart disease and other ailments.

“The key to what we’re doing is the fact that I collect the venomous animals myself,” he said.

“Whenever possible I don’t purchase them, which is quite different from most biochemists who buy the venom, and they’re essentially all working on the same stuff.

“The biological reality is that they might miss the subtlety, because when you find venomous animals in the wild there will be ecological differences and differences in diet, vegetation and prey; thus they will be useful in different ways.”

Fry said when he was studying honours, he worked with viper venom which had a compound with potent cancer-fighting properties, “about 50 times stronger” than similar compounds of different populations of the same animal.

Synthetic version of the compounds studied by Fry and his team could be created for tests in further studies and drug production. Continue reading UQ’s batty breakthrough

Team maps koala genome

Koala_climbing_treeIn a joint project that is also likely to benefit the conservation of other threatened and endangered species, a team of researchers from the Australian Museum, the Queensland University of Technology, Australia Zoo, the University of New South Wales’ Ramaciotti Centre, and the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, recently announced it had achieved the ‘holy grail’ of understanding the response of koalas to the infectious diseases currently threatening their survival.

The initial draft of the koala genome sequence has identified genes implicated in the animals’ diet as well as their immune systems, including the koala interferon gamma, or IFN-g gene, a chemical messenger that plays a key role in the marsupial’s defence against cancer, viruses and intracellular bacteria.

Peter Timms from QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, said the IFN-g gene was the key to finding a cure for chlamydia and koala retrovirus, and its discovery would make it possible to fully test the effectiveness of vaccines on wild populations of koalas.

“We know koalas are infected with various strains of chlamydia, but we don’t know why some animals go on to get severe clinical disease and some don’t. We also know that genes such as IFN-g are very important for controlling chlamydial infections in humans and other animals. Identifying these in the koalas will be a major step forward in understanding and controlling diseases in this species,” Timms said. Continue reading Team maps koala genome

Japanese vets explore up-skilling, Downunder

A number of Japanese veterinarians have attended a two day neurosurgical workshop at the University of Queensland (UQ).

The event was hosted from July 20-21 by VetPrac, an organisation that provides practical skills training for registered veterinarians in clinical practice.

VetPrac director Ilana Mendels coordinated the workshop over six months, liaising with UQ and Philip Moses, president of the Australian College of Veterinary Scientists.

The workshop covered spinal surgery and including topics such as thoracolumbar disc disease, lumbosacral disease, atlanto-axial stabilization techniques, ventral slot and spinal fractures.

Mendels found the hospital grade surgical facilities of UQ’s Clinical Studies Centre and the veterinary technicians on hand ideal for the workshop.

“It’s great to use the facilities and show them off internationally,” she said. Continue reading Japanese vets explore up-skilling, Downunder