9 February 2012
Cone snails are not an obvious place to look for medicine’s next significant breakthrough, but this is exactly where Dr Richard Lewis and his research team have found a promising new treatment for chronic pain.
This research, which is currently at the clinical trial stage, makes use of cone snail toxins to create new pain treatments that lack the side effects associated with existing drugs. It is one of the research projects showcased in the National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) flagship publication, launched today in Canberra.
The Ten of the Best Research Projects 2011 booklet profiles some of the work done by NHMRC-funded researchers who are leading the way in finding innovative solutions to some of our nation’s greatest health challenges.
NHMRC CEO Professor Warwick Anderson praised the featured research projects, which range from Dr Lewis’ research to a study which found that people with depression may benefit more from participating in work rather than calling in sick.
“These projects were picked for Ten of the Best on the basis of the strength of the science and significance of outcomes,” Professor Anderson said.
“Many of these NHMRC-funded projects are fast on their way to being translated into new treatments to help Australians with cancer, diabetes, heart disease and more,” he said.
Another researcher featured in the publication is Dr Benjamin Kile, whose genetics research team discovered that each blood platelet contains a molecular clock that determines its lifespan. The ability to slow down this clock could have enormous benefits for blood bank supplies.
“Dr Kile and his team’s blood platelet research could have a huge positive impact on patients in hospitals not only in Australia, but worldwide,” Professor Anderson said.
Dr Jane Oliaro’s research team were behind an earlier discovery that when some T cells divide following an infection, the new cells are different from each other, rather than being identical as was previously understood to occur.
“Dr Oliaro’s team are now testing the theory that one of the new cells becomes a warrior cell and the other a memory cell,” Professor Anderson said.
“Confirming this theory could give rise to developing better immunisation strategies which could lead to more effective treatments for infectious disease and cancer.
"Outstanding research like Dr Oliaro’s and others highlighted in Ten of the Best Research Projects 2011 lead to improvements in treatment and practice – and then to better health outcomes for all Australians.
“I congratulate these ten researchers and their teams for their important, life- changing work. Their commitment and innovative approach to problem-solving is helping to keep Australia on the cutting edge of health and medical research,” he said.
The Ten of the Best publication is available on the NHMRC website.