The News – 13 June 2014

Overview

  • The genetic blueprint of an iconic Australian tree opens the way for better production of wood, medicines and possibly even eucalypt-based jet fuels.
  • Bird flu viruses are just a few genetic steps away from the flu virus that caused the deadly 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, a new study shows.
  • The Garvan Research Foundation is urging Australians not to become complacent about medical research, following the Federal Government’s long term commitment to establish a new multi-million dollar Medical Research Future Fund.


Stories Discussed
News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 13th June 2014. Read by Rebecca Foster.

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2014/06/12/4023210.htm

The genetic blueprint of an iconic Australian tree opens the way for better production of wood, medicines and possibly even eucalypt-based jet fuels.

The genome of Eucalyptus grandis (flooded gum) is published today in the journal Nature.

Native to the coastal regions of New South Wales and Queensland, flooded gum has become the species of choice for timber plantations across the world due to its hardy nature, fast growth rate and excellent quality of wood.

And now, armed with its genetic sequence, Professor Alexander Myburg from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, says there is tremendous potential to further improve the commercial value of this important species.

By knowing which genes are important for determining key characteristics, Myburg says there is potential for breeding trees that grow faster, use water more efficiently and which will be better able to cope with climate change.

The process of selectively breeding the eucalypts will also be accelerated as there is no longer the need to wait decades for them to mature to see what traits they possess.

The new study, which also provided insight into the evolutionary history of eucalypts, took five years of research involving 80 scientists from 18 countries.

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2014/06/12/4024045.htm?site=science&topic=latest

Bird flu viruses are just a few genetic steps away from the flu virus that caused the deadly 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, a new study shows.

An international team of virologists identified the key genetic components — similar to those in the virus behind the 1918 pandemic — in influenza viruses in wild ducks.

The findings, published in the journal Cell Host and Microbe , suggest that 1918-like pandemic viruses may emerge in the future.

The Spanish flu killed up to 50 million people across the world in 1918.

Previous genetic analysis indicates the deadly virus was a type of influenza A of avian origin, although this finding is controversial.

Wild birds harbour a large gene pool of influenza A viruses that could cause pandemics, but the likelihood of birds harbouring a virus similar to the 1918 pandemic virus has been unclear.

To assess the risk, the scientists used reverse genetic methods to recreate a virus that differed from that of the Spanish flu by only 3 per cent of the amino acids that make the virus proteins.

In the animals it was tested on, the new virus was less pathogenic than the Spanish flu — but more so than avian flu.

However, the scientists then discovered seven mutations in three virus genes that allowed it to spread as easily as the Spanish flu in ferrets, an animal commonly used in influenza transmission studies.

Consisting of genetic factors already present in wild bird populations, the virus showed that genetic ingredients capable of combining to create a dangerous pathogen that could produce a human pandemic exist in nature.

http://www.garvan.org.au/news-events/news/aussie-generosity-still-vital-following-medical-future-fund-announcement

The Garvan Research Foundation is urging Australians not to become complacent about medical research, following the Federal Government’s long term commitment to establish a new multi-million dollar Medical Research Future Fund. While commending the Federal Government’s commitment, Garvan is reminding Australians that philanthropy and fundraising for medical research is still essential.

According to Andrew Giles, Chief Executive Officer at the Garvan Research Foundation, donations made by corporate Australia and individuals have not only pushed Australia up the leader board as one of the most charitable countries, but also helped Australia cement its place at the forefront of medical breakthroughs and scientific research.

“It is wonderful to see the Federal Government recognising the importance of supporting ongoing research. However, the reality is, for every dollar of funding our researchers receive, we still need to raise another 70 cents in order to sustain research projects,” said Mr Giles.

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