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Analysis and Comment (48)

Making connections. Making connections. Jairoagua

Health database could help avoid another pharma scandal

Electronic medical records are essential for treating rare conditions. I have a two-year-old daughter with a rare medical condition. She is seen by three doctors and is on a number of different medicines…
From street scourge to lab hero: rats have provided us with significant insights into human diseases and disorders. From street scourge to lab hero: rats have provided us with significant insights into human diseases and disorders. ressaure

Animals in research: rats

Our series, Animals in Research, profiles the top organisms used for science experimentation. In this instalment, we look at the original lab rats: Rattus norvegicus. Rats have a long history in medical…
Head for numbers: research into brain disorders is seriously underfunded. Head for numbers: research into brain disorders is seriously underfunded. Pennstatenews

Burden of brain disorders ignored by government

According to various large-scale studies conducted by the World Health Organization, about a third of the adult worldwide population suffer from a mental disorder such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia…
Some value may accrue from animal research – but is it enough? Some value may accrue from animal research – but is it enough? www.understandinganimalresearch.org.uk

Animals in research: do the costs outweigh the benefits?

Studies in non-human animals have led to “countless” treatments for various diseases, according to a recent article on The Conversation. But the author, Gavan McNally, provided no scientific references…
Breakthroughs such as the development of penicillin – first tested in mice – may not have occurred without animal testing. Breakthroughs such as the development of penicillin – first tested in mice – may not have occurred without animal testing. Novartis AG

Animals in research: benefits, ethics and assessment

“AUSTRALIANS SAY NO TO ANIMAL EXPERIMENTS,” rang the headline of a recent media release by the activist group Humane Research Australia, referring to an opinion poll it commissioned in May that found…
Tony Abbott has a history of supporting medical research since his time as health minister under John Howard. Tony Abbott has a history of supporting medical research since his time as health minister under John Howard. Paul Miller/AAP

Coalition policy aims to protect and streamline medical research

The Coalition’s Policy to Protect and Streamline Health and Medical Research Funding is one of the first documents off the blocks this election. Short and sweet, it is designed to appeal to medical researchers…
Magic mushrooms might be less mysterious if scientists could find out more about them. Magic mushrooms might be less mysterious if scientists could find out more about them. Flickr/ReflexPics

Medical breakthroughs missed because of pointless drug bans

In 1632 the Catholic Church convened a case against Galileo on the grounds that his work using the telescope to explore the nature of the heavens contradicted the church’s teaching - the culmination of…
Mice have revealed many of biology’s secrets. Mice have revealed many of biology’s secrets. Stuart Read/APN

Animals in research: mice

Our series, Animals in Research, profiles the top organisms used for science experimentation. Here, we look at a species familiar to most: Mus musculus, or the mouse. Mice have been close companions of…
Zebrafish at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. Zebrafish at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. Joan Heath

Animals in research: zebrafish

Our series, Animals in Research, profiles the top organisms used for science experimentation. Here, we look at Danio rerio - the zebrafish. Zebrafish are probably not the first creatures that come to mind…
Drosphila melanogaster showing red-eyed and white-eyed variants. Drosphila melanogaster showing red-eyed and white-eyed variants. Joe Jimbo

Animals in research: Drosophila (the fruit fly)

We’ve all heard of lab rats, but what are the other go-to animals for researchers, and why are they so popular? Our new series, Animals in Research, profiles the top creatures for science experimentation…
Research should be routinely performed as part of health-care delivery. Research should be routinely performed as part of health-care delivery. Image from shutterstock.com

Don’t bury the benefits of research to improve the health system

If you missed the release of the McKeon review on Friday you’re not alone. The Commonwealth government released the Strategic Review of Health and Medical Research just before the weekend – a time usually…
The McKeon review of health and medical research funding is now in the government’s hands with the review panel stepping up its focus on the return on investment. The McKeon review of health and medical research funding is now in the government’s hands with the review panel stepping up its focus on the return on investment. Paul Miller/AAP

Health review panel adjusts funding recommendations

The McKeon review of health and medical research has reduced its short term funding bid in the face of current federal budget pressures. The draft review, released in October last year, suggested an additional…
The aim of CER is to assess the effectiveness and worth of medical interventions in real-life scenarios. The aim of CER is to assess the effectiveness and worth of medical interventions in real-life scenarios. Image from shutterstock.com

Explainer: what is comparative effectiveness research?

The evidence gleaned from medical research directly affects the decisions made about health care in Australia, driving everything from clinical practice guidelines, to which health interventions will and…
An In Conversation between federal coalition MP Andrew Robb and the director of the Waler and Eliza Hall Institute, Doug Hilton. An In Conversation between federal coalition MP Andrew Robb and the director of the Waler and Eliza Hall Institute, Doug Hilton. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

In Conversation Andrew Robb: full transcript

Doug Hilton: Welcome Andrew to the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. This conversation between me, Doug Hilton, and Andrew Robb is part of The Conversation. So Andrew, it’s been really exciting in the last…
The research funding system needs to be changed to make it more efficient says coalition member Andrew Robb. The research funding system needs to be changed to make it more efficient says coalition member Andrew Robb. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

In Conversation with Andrew Robb: research must ‘back our strengths’

It’s hard to argue with the importance of research, particularly medical research. It leads to breakthroughs and can change people’s lives for the better. But there are some crucial questions about how…
Researchers have invested hundreds of hours to enhance their applications, only to miss out. Researchers have invested hundreds of hours to enhance their applications, only to miss out. Paperwork image from Shutterstock.com

A better way to award NHMRC’s medical research grants

Last Friday, the results for this year’s round of applications for National Health and Medical Research (NHMRC) grants were released. Because headlines focus on success and rankings, universities and medical…
Research should be routinely translated into clinical practice. Research should be routinely translated into clinical practice. Flickr/cstmweb

McKeon review: we need to integrate research and health services

Last year the federal government asked my colleagues and I to investigate the state of health and medical research in Australia and make recommendations about the strategic direction of the sector. After…
Doctors are expected to be attuned to the latest developments in health care. Doctors are expected to be attuned to the latest developments in health care. www.shutterstock.com

Man v mountain: how to overcome the evidence overload

Most doctors shudder at the sight of the growing mountain of unread medical journals gathering dust on their desks over months, if not years. They need not despair though, as there are less time-consuming…
Dementia has become Australia’s latest national health priority. Dementia has become Australia’s latest national health priority. John/Flickr

Alzheimer hypothesis stuck in intellectual cul-de-sac

The size and growing magnitude of the dementia epidemic has forced a welcome decision by health ministers to name the disorder as Australia’s latest national health priority area. Yet for researchers searching…
Benefits and risks have to be assessed when looking for medical uses of drugs. Benefits and risks have to be assessed when looking for medical uses of drugs. Harsh Vardhan

Human testing of illicit drugs – the highs and lows

Should governments make it easier to perform human research to discover medical uses of illicit drugs such as cannabis, ecstasy (MDMA) and LSD? Professor David Nutt of Imperial College London argued recently…
Ovarian cancer is a significant cause of illness and death in Australia. Ovarian cancer is a significant cause of illness and death in Australia. Flickr Lindsey G (modchik)

It’s time to adjust our cancer research priorities

Cancer has been a National Health Priority Area since 1996 because of the burden it places on the Australian community. Of course, cancer isn’t just a health and economic burden – it takes an enormous…
Chron’s disease causes the wall of the intestine to become inflamed. Chron’s disease causes the wall of the intestine to become inflamed. Flickr/Rob Wiltshire

Explainer: Crohn’s disease and intestinal immune balance

Scientific and medical articles, and websites by Crohn’s disease associations give similar definitions of the illness: “Crohn’s disease is a chronic, inflammatory disorder which may involve any part of…
Around one in every 1,000 patients will recall sounds or senstations while under general anaesthetic. Around one in every 1,000 patients will recall sounds or senstations while under general anaesthetic. nanda uforians

Why some people ‘wake up’ during surgery

Awareness during general anaesthesia is very uncommon, but when it occurs it’s distressing for patients and their carers. Our understanding of this phenomenon has grown over the past decade but we’re still…
Cognitive training is one way to keep your brain healthy. Cognitive training is one way to keep your brain healthy. Regenerative Neuroscience Group

Medical research needs new body to champion healthy ageing

Australian medical research is undergoing its most important and comprehensive review in more than ten years. Led by the 2011 Australian of Year, the McKeon Review couldn’t have happened soon enough because…
Hypnosis is a state of conscious awareness which most people experience many times each day. Hypnosis is a state of conscious awareness which most people experience many times each day. Beyonder

Explainer: how does hypnosis relieve pain?

Hypnosis in one form or another has been around for thousands of years, but until recently, evidence to support its biological and clinically powerful effects have been lacking. Today hypnosis is used…
Australian health policy and public health campaigns – and the research that underpins them – leading the world in achievements. Australian health policy and public health campaigns – and the research that underpins them – leading the world in achievements. Penny Clay/AAP

Health research: making the dollars count

This week’s release of the NSW Health and Medical Research Strategic Review identifies many opportunities to strengthen research and ensure the community extracts the maximum possible benefit from its…
Chronic pain occurs when nerve cells misfire and send faulty pain signals to the brain. Chronic pain occurs when nerve cells misfire and send faulty pain signals to the brain. pinkangelbabe

What causes chronic pain? Microglia might be to blame

Imagine that a soft touch or brush of the skin was enough to evoke excruciating pain. This experience is common among people who suffer with chronic pain from nerve damage. The causes are varied and include…
Religious groups claim “ex-gay” therapies have scientific merit. Religious groups claim “ex-gay” therapies have scientific merit. flickr/michael keith photography

Praying the gay away: when religion hijacks science

It’s been decades since electroshock therapy or other psychiatric interventions were routinely employed to “treat” homosexuality. These days, reparative therapy is more popular. It involves a combination…
Journals can make it easier for reporters to do a good job by providing balanced information and accurate media releases designed to inform. Journals can make it easier for reporters to do a good job by providing balanced information and accurate media releases designed to inform. NS Newsflash/Flickr

‘Bad’ medical reporting – a history of shooting the messenger?

Journalists are having an increasingly hard time producing high-quality health stories. Medical journal articles feature in many health stories but new research shows their press releases may contribute…
Medical schools once battled with a shortage of cadavers, which led to some unsavoury practices. Medical schools once battled with a shortage of cadavers, which led to some unsavoury practices. Derek Harper

Donating your body to science? Don’t worry, it’s not what it used to be

The recent discovery of hundreds of human body parts in the University of Cologne’s cellars shocked Germany’s academic community and raised broader questions about the rights of people who donate their…
Twin studies tell us how environmental and genetic factors interact. Twin studies tell us how environmental and genetic factors interact. ethermoon

Seeing double: why twins are so important for health and medical research

On Sunday, more than a thousand sets of twins from around Australia and the world will gather in Melbourne to celebrate the bond they share with their identical or fraternal twin. The physical similarities…
Successful weight losers have higher levels of nerve activity than those who struggle to lose weight. Successful weight losers have higher levels of nerve activity than those who struggle to lose weight. Flickr/the great

A weighty issue: biggest losers have greater nerve activity

If you put a group of people on a calorie-restricted diet, you’ll see that some seem to lose weight easily, while others struggle to shed each pound. This difference doesn’t just come down to how much…
The value of medical research extends beyond pure economics. The value of medical research extends beyond pure economics. Flickr/left hand

How does medical research deliver value for money?

The Federal Government’s main medical research funding body, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), last week announced its 2011 program and development grants, and postgraduate scholarship…
Pigs may be the answer to Australia’s organ donor shortage. Pigs may be the answer to Australia’s organ donor shortage. Thornypup

Xenotransplantation: using pigs as organ and tissue donors for humans

Transplantation is the best available treatment for many serious health problems including diabetes, kidney failure and heart disease. These conditions affect millions of people worldwide and the cost…
A new study shows the liver destroys the cells responsible for rejected organ transplants. A new study shows the liver destroys the cells responsible for rejected organ transplants.

Wonder organ – how the liver finds and destroys immune cells

Most people only think about their liver when recovering from a big night of drinking when it’s busily producing enzymes to break down the alcohol. But this “factory” of the body is vital for survival…
Bringing research, education and health care delivery together will improve patient care. Bringing research, education and health care delivery together will improve patient care.

Explainer: why Australia needs Advanced Health Research Centres

In an attempt to bring Australia’s medical research, education and healthcare sectors into line with world leaders, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is planning to develop a new…
While it may make you unpopular, cracking your knuckles won’t cause arthritis. While it may make you unpopular, cracking your knuckles won’t cause arthritis. Flickr/orijinal

Monday’s medical myth: cracking your knuckles causes arthritis

For some it’s a morning ritual – cracking your knuckles before beginning the day. For others, it’s a way to pass time while pondering a thought or reading something particularly interesting online. But…
These genes exert their influence through the immune system. These genes exert their influence through the immune system. Flickr/Natashacld

Revealed: 57 pieces of the MS puzzle

In one of the largest human genetic studies ever undertaken, scientists have identified the major common genetic variants that contribute to the cause of the devastating neurological disease, multiple…
Patients achieve real outcomes with homeopathic therapy – we more research to work out why. Patients achieve real outcomes with homeopathic therapy – we more research to work out why. Flickr/Missy the universe

Question homeopathy’s remedies but not its approach

It seems the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is likely to follow the lead of the UK and denounce homeopathy as an ineffective and unethical therapy that shouldn’t attract scarce government…
Being able to measure growth hormone secretion in mice opens up a field of research into diseases. Being able to measure growth hormone secretion in mice opens up a field of research into diseases.

Pinky and the Brain: a new role for mice in growth hormone research

The phrase “growth hormone” conjures up images of either the very tall or the very short. And yes, growth hormone is important for promoting linear growth but this hard-working hormone also controls many…
The difficulty in diagnosing lupus lends itself to the treatment it receives on the TV show House. The difficulty in diagnosing lupus lends itself to the treatment it receives on the TV show House. eeb d o/Flickr

Why ‘It’s never lupus’ - television, illness and the making of a meme

On the television show House, doctors try to diagnose mysterious illnesses, and often when time is running out all other options have been exhausted, one of the characters will offer a diagnosis of last…
Researches have uncovered a vital piece of the anti-malaria puzzle. Researches have uncovered a vital piece of the anti-malaria puzzle. Larah McElroy

An end to malaria? Mission definitely not impossible

More than 200 million people are infected annually with the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, and around 800,000 people die every year of the mosquito-borne disease, most of them children. As reported…
Historically, lefties have had a rough trot. Historically, lefties have had a rough trot. Flickr/Incurable Hippie

Monday’s medical myth: left handers are more likely to be geniuses

Left handers have copped their share of bad publicity in the past. The term used to describe left handers in English is “sinistral”, which is derived from the word “sinister”. And it’s no better in other…
Heart attacks damage important muscles but now scientists think that a special protein can awaken the stem cells that grow new muscles. Heart attacks damage important muscles but now scientists think that a special protein can awaken the stem cells that grow new muscles. Flickr

Fixing a broken heart with stem cells

Vital heart muscles damaged during cardio arrest can be replaced by stem cells within the organ with the help of a special protein, scientists have discovered. Heart attacks cause dangerous damage to muscle…
The breast cancer research agenda is more balanced due to its public profile. The breast cancer research agenda is more balanced due to its public profile. AAP

Funding cancer research should not be a popularity contest

Some of the most serious forms of cancer are less likely to be the subject of a clinical trial than cancers with a less significant health impact. Research shows that even being a disease is a popularity…

Research and News (23)

Research Briefs (46)

Infections cause one in six cancers

One in six cancers are caused by largely treatable or preventable infections, according to new research. The research looked…

Defective gene linked to osteoporosis

Women with a particular faulty receptor lose 10 times more bone mass than women without it. The receptor for the energy molecule…

Why does hair turn gray?

Hair colour, including gray hair, is dictated by Wnt signaling between hair follicles and melanocyte stem cells, according…

Autism changes the brain

Autism marks the brain at a molecular level, resulting in a dramatically different structure than a healthy brain, a new…