Science Collected Works - Research Publications
Now showing items 1-12 of 73
Embryonic Toxin Expression in the Cone Snail Conus victoriae PRIMED TO KILL OR DIVERGENT FUNCTION?
(AMER SOC BIOCHEMISTRY MOLECULAR BIOLOGY INC, 2011-06-24)
Predatory marine cone snails (genus Conus) utilize complex venoms mainly composed of small peptide toxins that target voltage- and ligand-gated ion channels in their prey. Although the venoms of a number of cone snail species have been intensively profiled and functionally characterized, nothing is known about the initiation of venom expression at an early developmental stage. Here, we report on the expression of venom mRNA in embryos of Conus victoriae and the identification of novel α- and O-conotoxin sequences. Embryonic toxin mRNA expression is initiated well before differentiation of the venom gland, the organ of venom biosynthesis. Structural and functional studies revealed that the embryonic α-conotoxins exhibit the same basic three-dimensional structure as the most abundant adult toxin but significantly differ in their neurological targets. Based on these findings, we postulate that the venom repertoire of cone snails undergoes ontogenetic changes most likely reflecting differences in the biotic interactions of these animals with their prey, predators, or competitors. To our knowledge, this is the first study to show toxin mRNA transcripts in embryos, a finding that extends our understanding of the early onset of venom expression in animals and may suggest alternative functions of peptide toxins during development.
Characterization of aerosols over the Great Barrier Reef: The influence of transported continental sources
The rapid environmental changes in Australia prompt a more thorough investigation of the influence of transportation, local emissions, and optical-chemical properties on aerosol production across the region. A month-long intensive measurement campaign was conducted during spring 2016 at Mission Beach, a remote coastal site west of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) on the north-east coast of Australia. One aerosol pollution episode was investigated in early October. This event was governed by meteorological conditions and characterized by the increase in black carbon (BC) mass concentration (averaged value of 0.35 ± 0.20 μg m-3). Under the influence of the continental transportation, a new layer of nucleation-mode aerosols with an initial size diameter of 20 nm was observed and aerosol number concentrations reached the peak of 6733 cm-3 at a diameter of 29 nm. The averaged aerosol extinction coefficient at the height of 2 km was 150 Mm-1, with a small depolarized ratio (3.5-5%). Simultaneously, the boundary layer height presented a fall-rise trend in the presence of these enhanced aerosol concentrations and became stable in a later stage of the episode. We did not observe clear boundary layer height diurnal variations from the LiDAR observations or from the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model outputs, except in an earlier stage of the aerosol episode for the former. Although the sea breeze may have been responsible for these particles, on the balance of available data, we suggest that the aerosol properties at the GBR surface during this period are more likely influenced by regional transportation of continental sources, including biomass-burning aerosols.
A first evaluation of the contribution of aeolian sand transport to lagoon island accretion in the Maldives
(ELSEVIER SCI LTD, 2019-08-01)
Aeolian sedimentation and dune development have not been reported from coral atolls at equatorial latitudes. This study presents high-frequency measurements of incident and near surface wind flow and aeolian sand transport on a lagoon sand cay (Maaodegalaa) in the Maldives. Sonic anemometers and Wenglor™ particle counters were operated at 1 Hz for 8 days during the Iruvai monsoon in February 2018. Sand traps were deployed to estimate sand flux and island topography and vegetation cover were surveyed using UAV (un-manned aerial vehicle) photogrammetry and a laser level (in 2017 and 2018). Flow over beach scarps is 10 modelled using computational fluid dynamics. Maaodegalaa sand cay reaches just 0.9m above the highest spring high tides. Nebkha, between 0.10 and 0.40 m high, are widespread and are associated with Scaevola taccada and Cyperus conglomeratus. Between 2017 and 2018 the eastern section of the sand cay accreted 0.3 m following Cyperus colonisation. Reptation and aeolian ripple development occurred during fieldwork when near-surface flows exceeded 6 ms-1. Saltation occurred at higher wind speeds (8 ms-1). The highest rates of sand transport occurred during north-east incident winds of 12 ms-1 (at 6 m), that were probably generated by surface-based density currents under cumulonimbus clouds. Spatially, higher rates of sand transport were recorded downwind of a beach scarp, probably forced by flow acceleration. We propose a conceptual model of lagoon island formation, with both over-wash and aeolian sedimentation contributing to island accretion. A period of aeolian sedimentation may be critical to the emergence of sand cays.
Ghosts in the Machine: Identifying the Digital Health Information Workforce.
In descriptions of digital health the role of human agency and the work of managing and governing health information and communication technology is often invisible. This paper reports preliminary results of a scoping review of the literature and a national workforce census, undertaken as part of a research program to shed light on the responsibilities and the contributions of the health information workforce. The global literature is not a good indicator of the actual proportion of health informaticians, health information managers, health librarians or other health professionals who are engaged in health information work in Australia. While the research interest in health information work of all descriptions is increasing, the practice of health information work is neither highly skilled nor easily identifiable in findings of an Australian census. Reforming this workforce may be a key to translating digital health rhetoric into measurable improvements in health system performance.
Evaluating the Relationship between Interannual Variations in the Antarctic Ozone Hole and Southern Hemisphere Surface Climate in Chemistry-Climate Models
(AMER METEOROLOGICAL SOC, 2019-06-01)
Studies have recently reported statistically significant relationships between observed year-to-year spring Antarctic ozone variability and the Southern Hemisphere annular mode and surface temperatures in spring–summer. This study investigates whether current chemistry–climate models (CCMs) can capture these relationships, in particular, the connection between November total column ozone (TCO) and Australian summer surface temperatures, where years with anomalously high TCO over the Antarctic polar cap tend to be followed by warmer summers. The interannual ozone–temperature teleconnection is examined over the historical period in the observations and simulations from the Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model (WACCM) and nine other models participating in the Chemistry–Climate Model Initiative (CCMI). There is a systematic difference between the WACCM experiments forced with prescribed observed sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and those with an interactive ocean. Strong correlations between TCO and Australian temperatures are only obtained for the uncoupled experiment, suggesting that the SSTs could be important for driving both variations in Australian temperatures and the ozone hole, with no causal link between the two. Other CCMI models also tend to capture this relationship with more fidelity when driven by observed SSTs, although additional research and targeted modeling experiments are required to determine causality and further explore the role of model biases and observational uncertainty. The results indicate that CCMs can reproduce the relationship between spring ozone and summer Australian climate reported in observational studies, suggesting that incorporating ozone variability could improve seasonal predictions; however, more work is required to understand the difference between the coupled and uncoupled simulations.
Sociodemographic and Clinical Characteristics of Transgender Adults in Australia.
Background: Over the last 10 years, increases in demand for transgender health care has occurred worldwide. There are few data on clinical characteristics of Australian adult transgender individuals. Understanding gender identity patterns, sociodemographic characteristics, gender-affirming treatments, as well as medical and psychiatric morbidities, including neurobehavioral conditions affecting transgender and gender-diverse adults will help to inform optimal health service provision. Purpose: In an Australian adult transgender cohort, we aimed to first, assess referral numbers and describe the sociodemographic and clinical characteristics, and second, to specifically assess the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Methods: We performed a retrospective audit of deidentified electronic medical records in a primary care and a secondary care gender clinic in Melbourne, Australia. Annual referral rates, sociodemographic data, and prevalence of medical and psychiatric conditions were obtained. Results: Data for 540 transgender individuals were available. Rapid rises were observed in referrals for transgender health services, more than 10 times the number in 2016 compared with 2011. Median age at initial presentation was 27 years (interquartile range (22, 36), range 16-74). Around 21.3% were unemployed and 23.8% had experienced homelessness despite high levels of education. Around 44.1% identified as trans male, 36.3% as trans female, and 18.3% as gender nonbinary. Medical morbidities were rare but mental illness was very common. The prevalence of depression was 55.7%, anxiety in 40.4%, ADHD in 4.3%, and ASD in 4.8%, all higher than reported age-matched general Australian population prevalence. Conclusions: Rising demand for transgender care, socioeconomic disadvantage, and high burden of mental health conditions warrants a comprehensive multidisciplinary approach to provide optimal care for transgender individuals. Given that ASD and ADHD are prevalent, in addition to gender-affirming treatments, psychosocial interventions may assist individuals in navigating health care needs and to support social aspects of gender transition. Further studies are required to understand links between ASD, ADHD, and gender identity and to evaluate optimal models of health service provision for transgender individuals.
Longitudinal study of the neurodevelopmental characteristics of treated and untreated nonsyndromic craniosynostosis in infancy
PURPOSE: Nonsyndromic craniosynostosis (NSC) are a group of congenital disorders sharing premature fusion of one or more of the cranial sutures that restricts and distorts growth of the skull and underlying brain. This study examined the neurodevelopmental sequelae of NSC both prior to and following reconstructive cranial surgery. METHODS: Sixty-four consecutive referrals with mixed forms of untreated NSC aged 4 to 16 months (M = 8.9, SD = 2.9) comprised the pre-operative cohort. Forty-four of these patients aged 6 to 32 months (M = 21.2, SD = 4.5) underwent post-operative developmental evaluation. Neurodevelopmental function was assessed with the mental (Mental Development Index) and motor (Psychomotor Development Index) scales of the Bayley Scales of Infant Development-2nd edition. RESULTS: Children with untreated NSC displayed significantly lower mental (M = 97.5) and motor (M = 87.7) scores than normative expectations, with the distribution of scores also differing significantly from the normative distribution. Post-operatively, children continued to display significantly lower mental (M = 89.5) and motor (M = 88.0) abilities, with mental abilities falling significantly lower than pre-operative levels. An increased prevalence of severe motor delay was found, and no child displayed accelerated development. Subgroup comparisons revealed no differences in mental or motor skills between the primary diagnostic subtypes (sagittal and metopic synostosis) both prior to and following corrective surgery. CONCLUSIONS: NSC is associated with an increased incidence of developmental delay in both treated and untreated conditions. Timing of surgery appears unrelated to developmental outcome.
Uteroplacental insufficiency leads to hypertension, but not glucose intolerance or impaired skeletal muscle mitochondrial biogenesis, in 12-month-old rats
Growth restriction impacts on offspring development and increases their risk of disease in adulthood which is exacerbated with "second hits." The aim of this study was to investigate if blood pressure, glucose tolerance, and skeletal muscle mitochondrial biogenesis were altered in 12-month-old male and female offspring with prenatal or postnatal growth restriction. Bilateral uterine vessel ligation induced uteroplacental insufficiency and growth restriction in offspring (Restricted). A sham surgery was also performed during pregnancy (Control) and some litters from sham mothers had their litter size reduced (Reduced litter), which restricted postnatal growth. Growth-restricted females only developed hypertension at 12 months, which was not observed in males. In Restricted females only homeostasis model assessment for insulin resistance was decreased, indicating enhanced hepatic insulin sensitivity, which was not observed in males. Plasma leptin was increased only in the Reduced males at 12 months compared to Control and Restricted males, which was not observed in females. Compared to Controls, leptin, ghrelin, and adiponectin were unaltered in the Restricted males and females, suggesting that at 12 months of age the reduction in body weight in the Restricted offspring is not a consequence of circulating adipokines. Skeletal muscle PGC-1α levels were unaltered in 12-month-old male and female rats, which indicate improvements in lean muscle mass by 12 months of age. In summary, sex strongly impacts the cardiometabolic effects of growth restriction in 12-month-old rats and it is females who are at particular risk of developing long-term hypertension following growth restriction.
Submission to the Department of Environment and Energy in response to their “Better fuel for cleaner air” discussion paper
The Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub and the Melbourne Energy Institute welcome the opportunity to comment on the ‘Better fuel for cleaner air’ discussion paper, and the proposed changes to the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000 and associated legislation. These two groups have expertise in several areas that are relevant to this paper: air quality, public health, energy policy and resource economics and vehicle fuels and emissions. We would therefore welcome further discussion with the Department should this be of interest. Our submission first considers the motivation of this Paper. While Australian air quality conforms to international standards, recent research1 shows that significant health impacts still occur at pollution levels experienced in Australia. The costs of air pollution to society have been put on a par with smoking and obesity. Air pollution due to vehicle emissions is estimated to have caused 1715 deaths in Australia in 20152 , larger than the national road toll of 1205 in 20153 . Appendix A to this submission contains a detailed discussion of these health impacts. We submit that a review of the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000 and associated legislation should therefore prioritise this cost of the health impacts of vehicle emissions. To this end this submission primarily addresses Question Sets 1 and 6, and the Questions relating to the fuel, automotive and marine diesel standards. While making specific recommendations relevant to the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000, we also submit that the comprehensive package of measures should contain additional regulations, at both Australian Government and state government levels, concerning energy infrastructure, motor vehicles and other engines, and driver behaviour. Furthermore, additional government action directed towards increasing public awareness and supporting better collection of air quality data are important.