The News – 3 July 2014

Overview

  • A discovery by Australian immunologists, uncovering an additional role for antibody-making ‘B cells’, is considered important enough by the American Association of Immunologists to rank it among the top 10% of articles in the latest issue of The Journal of Immunology, off the press YESTERDAY today.
  • AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, said today that recent advice from the Department of Human Services (DHS) that practice nurse time does not count in Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Health Assessment items undermines team-based primary health care arrangements.
  • Kangaroos use their tail as an extra leg when they walk, according to new research. according to Professor Terry Dawson of the University of New South Wales and colleagues have previously shown that during hopping, the kangaroo tail acts as a counterbalance, and as a spring to store up energy for the next bounce.


Stories Discussed
The news on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 3rd July 2014. Read by Rebecca Foster.

http://www.garvan.org.au/news-events/news/unsuspected-aspect-of-immune-regulation-revealed

A discovery by Australian immunologists, uncovering an additional role for antibody-making ‘B cells’, is considered important enough by the American Association of Immunologists to rank it among the top 10% of articles in the latest issue of The Journal of Immunology, off the press YESTERDAY today.

The finding by Senior Research Assistant Stacey Walters and Associate Professor Shane Grey, from Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research, shows that B cells also participate in the development of ‘regulatory T cells’.

T cells develop in the thymus gland, a soft triangular organ in the chest cavity. From a ‘naïve’, or undifferentiated, state they are gradually ‘educated’ to become helpers, or warriors, or regulators.

Until now, the only non-thymic cells known to educate the regulators were dendritic cells, which travel to the thymus to deliver ‘antigen’, samples of substances toxic to the body. We now know that B cells can do the same thing.

B cells have been thought to specialise only in the production of antibodies. As newfound educators of T cells as well, B cells become much more interesting and complex characters, potentially useful in helping to prevent organ rejection, or control inflammatory bowel disease, or quell autoimmune conditions.

… In the case of organ transplantation, several studies have shown that high levels of regulatory T cells can prevent organ rejection.

… Researchers are also working on ways to grow regulatory cells in the laboratory – to infuse into patients as therapy.”

“Everyone is interested in finding ways to treat autoimmunity and prevent transplant rejection. Expansion of regulatory T cells should help in both cases.”

“Our finding suggests it should be possible to set up systems that harness B cells to expand regulatory cells.”

The Garvan lab members worked with mice genetically modified to express high levels of ‘BAFF’, a substance that increases survival of B cells. The higher number of B cells overall allowed researchers to track the activity of B cells in the thymus.

… said Stacey Walters.

“Our experiments showed clearly that B cells participated in the creation of regulatory T cells – the more B cells that were in the thymus, the higher the number of regulatory cells generated. That direct correlation raises interesting possibilities.” 

“One possibility is using BAFF, a non-toxic substance, to ramp up the B cell count of patients before transplant procedures. It will be very interesting to test whether or not that would prevent rejection.”

The Garvan Institute of Medical Research was founded in 1963. Initially a research department of St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, it is now one of Australia’s largest medical research institutions with over 600 scientists, students and support staff.

https://ama.com.au/media/unclear-health-assessment-items-advice-undermines-team-based-primary-health-care

AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, said today that recent advice from the Department of Human Services (DHS) that practice nurse time does not count in Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Health Assessment items undermines team-based primary health care arrangements.

DHS has advised that MBS Health Assessment items would no longer cover the time spent by practice nurses contributing to the health assessment. The items will now only cover the time spent by the supervising medical practitioner with the patient.

A/Prof Owler said that the advice is at odds with the Government’s stated objective of making the best use of the health workforce.

“When the Practice Nurse Incentive Program replaced the Practice Nurse items in the MBS, there was no advice that the Health Assessment items would be affected.

“The system has been working very well for patients and the stretched resources of medical practices.

“This vital service delivery model is now under threat.

“These constant changes to advice – and poor communication with practices – are making it difficult to navigate the unclear MBS requirements.

“The AMA urges the Government and DHS to urgently reinstate the former arrangements,” A/Prof Owler said.

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2014/07/02/4036228.htm

Kangaroos use their tail as an extra leg when they walk, according to new research.

The study, reported in Royal Society Biology Letters, found that the animals use their tail more than their forelimbs when they walk.

The findings provide new insights into kangaroo locomotion, and could also have applications in advanced robotics.

Professor Terry Dawson of the University of New South Wales and colleagues have previously shown that during hopping, the kangaroo tail acts as a counterbalance, and as a spring to store up energy for the next bounce.

In this study the researchers were interested in working out how kangaroos walk.

While previous literature suggested kangaroos used their tail as a “strut to hold the body in place while they move the back legs forward,” Dawson suspected something else was happening.

“It appeared to me they were using the tail for propulsion when walking,” he says.

To test this hypothesis, Dawson and colleagues trained one male and four female red kangaroos (Macropus rufus) to walk over a force-measuring platform that monitored the energy used by different parts of the kangaroo as it walked.

The researchers found that kangaroos walk by using the tail to lift both hind legs and the body’s centre of gravity forward, while the forelimbs were used as struts and didn’t provide any of the propulsion.

The tests showed there was far more propulsion energy provided by the tail than scientists had thought.

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