Congratulations to Professor Macdonald Christie

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Congratulations to Professor Macdonald Christie who was awarded the Distinguished Professorial Achievement Award by the Sydney Medical School this year. Well deserved!

ASCEPT Early Achievement for Women Award

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Associate Professor Tina Hinton and Emeritus Professor Graham Johnston established an ASCEPT Early Achievement for Women Award to recognise the early achievements of women pharmacologists and toxicologists, and to help achieve gender equity in ASCEPT’s senior awards and office bearers.

Congratulations to Assoc Prof Kay Double for being awarded the 2018 VC Award (Mentoring and Leadership)

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Congratulations to Associate Professor Kay Double for being awarded the 2018 Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Mentoring and Leadership in recognition of her work mentoring students and researchers and teachers at all career stages across several schools.

Associate Professor Kay Double initiated and lead a mentoring scheme for Early Career Researchers at the Brain and Mind Centre, as well as another national mentoring scheme across all academic fields and she is widely sought out by students and researchers wanting some advice about achieving their career goals. The award is based on nominations by peers in recognition of her work in these areas and she said, “I am pleased to learn that so many of my colleagues and mentees supported my nomination for this Award and I am surprised and delighted to learn I was the successful nominee”.

Dr Susanna Park awarded a SOAR Fellowship

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Congratulations to Dr Susanna Park on the award of a SOAR Fellowship. The SOAR Fellowships support outstanding researchers at the University of Sydney to take the next step in their careers. The two-year program includes $50,000 per annum to bolster their research, innovation and development plans, as well as dedicated research development support and a structured mentoring program.

Dr Susanna Park’s current research program is targeted to develop objective tools to measure nerve damage in chemotherapy-treated patients, identify sensitive markers to identify patients at risk of long-term nerve damage, and provide a platform for the development of clinical trials of neuroprotective strategies.

Through the SOAR, she plans to develop and implement non-invasive technologies to assess patient function in cancer survivors. She’ll also host an inaugural Neurological Complications of Cancer workshop, to accelerate translation of research techniques into clinical trials.

2018 ASM: New Horizons in the Technology of Medical Research

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Theme: New Horizons in the Technology of Medical Research
Date: Thursday, 26th July 2018
Time: 8.45am - 5.00pm (Registration 8.00am)
Venue: New Law School Lecture Theatre 101, New Law School Building, The University of Sydney

Program: Click here to download the short program.

Registration: is FREE but ESSENTIAL for catering purposes.
Click here to register.

Abstract Submission: OPEN from 7th May to 10th July, 2018
This is your opportunity to be part of a great meeting by presenting your research - and there are 2 ways you can do this: (Please select one only)

  • Submit an abstract to present a poster (All – Welcome)
  • Submit an abstract to present a 3-minute thesis talk (for postgraduate students)

NB - Any field of research will be considered.

Submission Information:
To be considered for a presentation:

  • The presenting author must register for the Meeting.
  • Please read the Abstract Guideline.
  • Please use the Abstract Submission Template and send to

3 Minute Thesis
At this year's Annual Scientific Meeting, we will select from the submitted abstracts, 8-10 Postgraduate students to deliver oral presentations using the "3-minute thesis" format. Any field of research will be considered for this open session. Selected students will present to the audience one static PowerPoint slide (no animations, no sound) and a talk of a maximum of 3 minutes.


  • Dr. Brant Bassam
    NanoString Technologies Product Manager, Bio-Strategy
  • Chris Bowen
    Business Development Manager - Life Science, Shimadzu Scientific Instruments
  • Professor Barbara Fazekas de St Groth
    Discipline of Pathology, School of Medical Sciences, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney
  • Associare Professor Wojtek Chrzanowski
    The University of Sydney Nano Institute, Health and Medicine Theme Leader; Visiting Professor, Dankook University; Vice President of Asian Federation for Pharmaceutical Sciences
  • Professor Maria Kavallaris
    Head of the Tumour Biology and Targeting Program at Children's Cancer Institute; Director of the Australian Centre for NanoMedicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney
  • Associate Professor Maija Kohonen-Corish
    Microbiome Research Centre, St George & Sutherland Clinical School, University of New South Wales and Garvan Institute of Medical Research
  • Professor Andrew McLachlan AM
    Head of School and Dean of Pharmacy, Sydney Pharmacy School, University of Sydney
  • Dr. Ashraf Mina
    Principal Scientist, NSW Health Pathology, Westmead Hospital, Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of Sydney
  • Distinguished Professor Nicolle Packer
    Professor of Glycoproteomics; Director of the MQ Biomolecular Discovery & Design Research Centre and Consultant to APAF, Macquarie University
  • Professor Mia Woodruff
    Director of the Herston Biofabrication Institute, Queensland University of Technology
  • Dr. Qian Su
    Institute for Biomedical Materials & Devices (IBMD), School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Technology Sydney
  • Professor Hala Zreiqat
    Head of Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering Research Unit, University of Sydney

Talk by Rebecca L Cooper Prize Winner

To sponsor the event, please see the sponsor registration form below.
Click to download

Congratulations to Brian Morris who was made a Member of the Order of Australia

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The Department of Physiology is pleased to announce that in the 2018 Queen’s Birthday Honours list, Professor Emeritus Brian Morris was made a Member of the Order of Australia for ‘significant service to health education and research, particularly through the study of molecular genetics and hypertension, and to professional organisations’

Congratulations to Bio PhD student, Kathryn Mathews who has been awarded the 2018 Leslie Rich Scholarship for Research into Dementia

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A Discipline of Biomedical Sciences PhD student, Kathryn Mathews, has been awarded the 2018 Leslie Rich Scholarship for Research into Dementia.

Kathryn, who is based at the Brain and Mind Centre, researches neurogenesis; the birth of new neurons from resting stem cells. Neurogenesis is only found in two areas of the adult brain. One of these regions, the hippocampus, is strongly associated with memory and cognition. In particular Kathryn is interested in regional patterns of neurogenesis throughout the hippocampus, and how changes to these patterns in ageing and Parkinson’s disease may contribute to an increased risk of dementia.

The Leslie Rich Scholarship is a $10,000 research grant awarded annually by the Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund to a University of Sydney PhD student investigating dementia. Kathryn plans to use her grant for laboratory costs and attendance at an international conference on neurogenesis to share her results.

Congratulations to Bio PhD student Sachini Jayaratne for being awarded the Harvard University Mobility Scheme

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Sachi is Dr Jaimie Polson’s PhD student (Cardiovascular Neuroscience Lab), working on “The role of maternal “western fast food diet (high fat-high sugar) on the fetal programming of hypertension through autonomic dysfunction”. Sachi was awarded the Harvard University Mobility Scheme from The University of Sydney’s Office of Global Engagement. Its aims are to encourage collaborations between Harvard University and The University of Sydney. Sachi will be working in the laboratory of Professor Joseph Loscalzo’s at the Harvard Medical School/Brigham and Women’s Hospital for 6 weeks in early 2018, learning techniques to study blood vessel redox states and its contribution to hypertension.

Professor Hala Zreiqat received the Order for Distinction of the Second Degree from the King of Jordan

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The King of Jordan, His Majesty King Abdullah II, has bestowed the Order for Distinction of the Second Degree upon Professor Hala Zreiqat, in recognition of her achievements and innovations in biomedical engineering.

Professor Zreiqat was one of a number of distinguished Jordanian men and women from various sectors bestowed medals at an official celebration at Al Husseiniya Palace last week to mark the occasion of Jordan’s 72nd Independence Day.

A Royal Court statement highlighted Professor Zreiqat’s six patents in her field and that she has developed innovative biomaterials for tissue regeneration, among other innovations.

Bosch Institute Labs Contribute "Ray of Hope" in the Darkness of Dementia

Alzheimer’s Sufferers Search for a Ray of Hope

2ND APRIL 2018

Story by Suvi Mahonen, The Australian

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Old woman with cane. Istock & The Australian

On a blustery October morning, three years ago, Allen Wilson walked into the kitchen of the beachside Surfers Paradise apartment he shared with his partner, *Miriam Taylor. With fondness he watched as she stood at the sink, slicing pears for their breakfast.

“Good morning,” he said.

He waited for her enthusiastic “Happy Birthday”. Despite his age, he couldn’t help but feel some vestigial childlike anticipation for the card, the gift, and the cake with a phalanx of candles.

But instead, Taylor remained silent, staring out the window.

Not one to make a fuss Wilson, who had just turned 75, sat down to their usual breakfast of Weet-Bix and chopped fruit. He wondered if he was in trouble for something. And he consoled himself with the thought that perhaps a surprise was waiting for him later on in the day.

Wilson and Taylor went about their usual routine: a swim in the ocean, a walk on the beach, running errands in the afternoon. At no stage was there any acknowledgment from Taylor, who had always previously made a big fuss about his birthdays, that there was anything special about this day.

It was merely a simple slip of the mind, perhaps, but as they got ready for bed Wilson couldn’t shake the sense of foreboding that something more sinister was at play.

Lately he had been picking up subtle changes in Taylor’s behaviour. “Her short-term memory wasn’t as good and she had been experiencing increased anxiety,” he said.

Over the following months there were other moments of memory lapses: the stove left on, going out to get milk but not getting any, the tendency to forget other people’s names.

Eventually, with increasing concern, Wilson persuaded Taylor, who was 65 at the time, to visit their GP, Dr Mark Jeffery, a Gold Coast-based clinician.

A CAT scan of Taylor’s brain showed some classic features - hippocampal atrophy, dilation of the Sylvian fissures and shrinkage of the temporal lobes - consistent with Alzheimer’s disease.

A subsequent visit to a geriatrician confirmed the dreaded ­diagnosis. “It was terrible,” Taylor said. “I felt so sad and embarrassed. I said to Allen, ‘I can’t do this’. I felt like I should run away because it would be too hard for him.”

Alzheimer’s disease - first ­described by German physician Alois Alzheimer in 1906 - is a neurodegenerative brain disorder of unknown cause that results in memory impairment, increased difficulty in performing day-to-day tasks, and behavioural and psychological changes. As the ­disease progresses sufferers tend to become increasingly confused, disengaged and irritable, and ­reliant on others for their personal care.

Dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease comprises around 70 per cent of cases, is the second leading underlying cause of death in Australia. It is estimated to ­affect more than 420,000 Australians, with 250 people diagnosed with it every day. The average life expectancy after symptoms begin is eight years, with sufferers usually succumbing to complications of advanced debilitation, such as ­infection and malnutrition.

Many treatments have been tried for Alzheimer’s disease ­including antioxidant therapy, dietary supplementation, hormone replacement, and cognitive rehabilitation, none of which have been proven to delay the eventual progression of the disease.

Many specialists recommend an initial trial of cholinesterase ­inhibitor medication for newly ­diagnosed patients.

This class of drug reduces breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine thereby partly compensating for the loss of cholinergic neurons in the brain. These medications have been shown to cause a small but measurable improvement in cognition, neuropsychiatric symptoms and activities of daily living in up to 50 per cent of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s dementia. They do not, however, appear to affect the progression of disability and they can be associated with significant side-effects including nausea, diarrhoea, weight loss, fainting and poor sleep.

When Taylor learned about these possible side-effects she refused to take the medications. Instead, with Wilson’s support, she went to a holistic wellness centre and undertook sessions of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. She also took supplements to help remove heavy metal contaminants from her system and had all her amalgam tooth fillings removed.

Despite these measures, there was no noticeable improvement in Taylor’s dementia and Dr Jeffery recommended she try another alternative treatment: red-light therapy. It has been known for some time that controlled exposure to red and near-infra-red light can improve wound healing and ­reduce inflammation through a process known as photobiomodulation - the term for light’s ability to affect key biological processes at a cellular or genetic level.

To date, almost all studies on the effects of near-infra-red light for Alzheimer’s disease have been performed on animals. The only human trial that has been reported in a peer-reviewed journal is a small study where five volunteers with Alzheimer’s-consistent ­dementia received daily light ­therapy to their head. All subsequently reported an improvement in their symptoms.

Feeling she had nothing to lose, Taylor bought a mobile infra-red light device produced and marketed by Vielight, a company based in Canada. This device delivers 810nm wavelength infra-red light via something that looks like a futuristic cross between a light bicycle helmet and a cumbersome set of headphones.

Taylor has used it for 20 minutes per day, six days a week, for the past 18 months and Dr Jeffery’s clinical impression is that it is helping. ‘She is doing well,’ he said. ‘Her short-term memory loss is stable.’

Both Taylor and Wilson are even more impressed with the ­results. “The light is stalling her ­decline and giving her confidence,” Wilson said. “Both her short-term memory and ­confusion have improved.”

Taylor agrees. “I have more moments where it feels like everything has come good again and I remember things,” she said. “My writing and piano playing have both improved and I am less anxious and confused when we go shopping.”

Vielight founder Lew Lim, who has a background in engineering and medical neuroscience, says it is encouraging that some Alzheimer’s sufferers have observed positive effects, though he agrees that more research is needed. “We are mobilising a gold-standard clinical trial involving a few hundred participants assessed in North American medical research institutions,” he said.

Many people, however, feel they cannot afford to wait. Retired cabinet-maker David Ryder, 69, who has been using red-light ­therapy for his own Parkinson’s ­disease, encouraged his wife, Faye*, 65, to give it a try after she was diagnosed in 2016 by a clinical psychologist as having Alzheimer’s type dementia.

After two months of using red-light therapy Ryder says he ­noticed improvements in his wife’s cognition and mood. “She was talking more, smiling again, and her self-awareness and emotions came back,” Ryder said. “She even began to recontact old friends.”

In addition to red-light therapy Faye has also adapted dietary changes and vitamin supplementation, and Ryder believes that this combination has maintained the improvements in his wife’s ­dementia.

Dr Daniel Johnstone, 36, medical scientist and lecturer at the University of Sydney’s medical research centre the Bosch Institute, has been involved in a number of animal experiments on the use of photobiomodulation for Alzheimer’s disease and believes red and near-infra-red light therapy can also provide benefit in humans.

“If you can get the correct wavelength and intensity of light to vulnerable cells then you can afford them some level of protection against degeneration, whatever the underlying cause,” he said. “Red light is a mild stress which can stimulate cells to up-regulate their in-built defence systems to protect themselves against more severe subsequent insults.”

His supervisor at the Bosch ­Institute, executive director Professor Jonathan Stone, says there is growing evidence that photobiomodulation can potentially help in the cognitive aspects of Alzheimer’s disease.

“When red light is directed at the brain, it impacts both the nerve cells and the blood vessels,” said Stone, who is a proponent of the theory that Alzheimer’s is at least partially due to microvascular disease. “When sufficient silent microbleeds occur, the individual begins to experience some noticeable loss of function. But we can delay this breakdown by things that help our heart and blood vessels, such as controlling our blood pressure and diabetes, and keeping our cholesterol down, as well as lifestyle measures including exercise, controlling our weight, eating a vegetable-rich diet, and interventions like red-light ­therapy.”

Dr Ann Liebert, director of photomolecular research at the Australasian Research Institute and senior lecturer at the University of Sydney’s department of medicine, noticed that patients in her physiotherapy practice who had been treated with laser before major surgery generally recovered more rapidly and experienced less delirium and post-operative cognitive dysfunction compared to those who did not.

As a result, Liebert, who is also vice-president of the Australian Medical Laser Association, began to administer laser to some of her patients with cognitive decline. Encouragingly, she says, four out of five of her patients who have Alzheimer’s disease have experienced benefits.

This experience has prompted Liebert, in collaboration with geriatrician Dr Gregory Bennett, to apply for ethics approval to begin a clinical trial investigating the benefits of light therapy for Alzheimer’s patients.

Bennett, who consults at the Sydney Adventist Hospital, agrees. He has been administering laser to some of his dementia ­patients since 2015 and has noticed some positive results.

“There seems to be general improvement in their engagement in life,” he said. “They seem happier and more energetic and show more initiative in doing little chores around the house.”

Bennett advises, however, that randomised, blinded, controlled trials are needed.

“The difficulty is, we can’t really be sure that their improvements are not the effects of just the social stimulation of getting out and coming into the clinic,” he said.

Professor Simon Lewis, dementia fellow and consultant neurologist at the Royal Prince ­Alfred Hospital in Sydney, is even more cautious. “I have not seen any clinical studies that would support this [red-light therapy for Alzheimer’s disease] approach,” he said.

“The major concern is that hype and hope can often collide with disappointing consequences. Clearly, the advice would be to wait for the outcome of properly conducted clinical trials and in the meantime invest in strategies that have an evidence base, such as minimising cardiovascular risk, healthy diet, good sleep patterns and exercise.”

*Patient names have been changed for privacy

Professor Hala Zreiqat named NSW Premier's Woman of the Year

9TH MARCH 2018

Pioneering biomaterials and tissue engineer Professor Hala Zreiqat has been awarded the NSW Premier’s Award for Woman of the Year.

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Professor Zreiqat with her NSW Woman of the Year award. Image credit: Salty Dingo 2018

Professor Zreiqat was recognised by Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Women Tanya Davies for her extraordinary contribution to regenerative medicine and orthopaedic research in NSW and an unwavering commitment to improving opportunities for women around the world.

“It is very humbling to be considered for this award as there are many other highly deserving candidates who contributed to NSW,” she said.

“Being Woman of the Year will give me more opportunity to reach out and expand my interactions with young people around NSW, not just those in the big cities or well-known schools and Universities, but also in regional remote areas.”

Professor Zreiqat grew up, studied and worked in Jordan before moving to Sydney to do her PhD in Medical Sciences. Today she is recognised internationally for her extraordinary contributions to regenerative medicine and translational orthopaedic research.

As a Professor of Biomedical Engineering, she founded the Tissue Engineering and Biomaterials Research Unit in 2006. Pioneering the invention of new biomaterials and biomedical devices, the unit’s work is giving NSW a place at the table in the highly competitive global orthopaedic market.

Described as a trailblazer in championing opportunities for women, Professor Zreiqat was the first female president of the Australian and New Zealand Orthopaedic Research Society.

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(L-R): Minister for Women Tanya Davies, Professor Hala Zreiqat, Premier Gladys Berejiklian and First State Super's Mary Murphy. Image credit: Salty Dingo.

A Senior Research Fellow of the National Health and Medical Research Council for the last 10 years, she was also the first person in NSW to receive a prestigious Radcliffe Fellowship from Harvard University.

Professor Zreiqat is also known for her work in developing the younger generation and is an avid supporter of upcoming Australian researchers; having mentored many postdoctoral researchers and supervised almost 70 PhD, Masters and Honours students.

While at Harvard, Professor Zreiqat founded a new international network called IDEAL Society, dedicated to improving opportunities and recognition for women around the world. Supported by the University, the meeting launch event will occur between 10 and 11 June, and will bring together representatives from across the globe.

Professor Zreiqat will lead the Australian Research Council Training Centre for Innovative Bioengineering, being launched later this year. The centre will provide the next generation of graduates skilled at addressing challenges in biomedical engineering, giving rise to improved health outcomes, economic benefits, and a skilled workforce able to advance this important field.

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Dr Cathy Zhao (far left) was recognised at the 2018 NSW Women of the Year awards ceremony.

Dr Cathy Zhao, a Clinical Lecturer from the Sydney Medical School and Westmead Clinical School, was also recognised for her contribution to the NSW community. She was a finalist for the Harvey Norman Young Woman of the Year Award.

Dr Zhao was recognised for her significant contribution to the community and her research in dermatology, especially of metastatic melanoma treatments on the skin, a highly relevant topic in Australia.

In addition to her academic work, she has volunteered her time to help organisations including the Cancer Council of NSW, Can-Teen, and Australasian Blistering Diseases Foundation.

Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence congratulated Professor Zreiqat on her award and Dr Zhao on her nomination.

“This success reflects Professor Zreiqat and Dr Zhao’s outstanding career achievements, as well as their tireless efforts to inspire and empower other women to break down barriers and follow their passions. We are privileged to count these two academics as leaders in our University community,” he said.

Now in their seventh year, the NSW Women of the Year Awards recognise and celebrate the outstanding contribution made by women across NSW.

The 2018 NSW Women of the Year Awards were presented at a ceremony in Sydney on the morning of International Women’s Day, Thursday 8 March.