Early Career Scientists Award Winners 2008 (Sydney)

Showcasing Early Career Scientists Awards are presented annually by the Cooperative Research Centres Association. The winners at the 2008 conference in Sydney were:

Mr David Nisbet 2008 winnerMr David Nisbet, Early Career Scientist from the CRC for Polymers, the winner of the 10 minute presentation with Ms Bernie Hobbs, MC and Dr Geoff Garrett, CSIRO Chief Executive and Board Member

Winner – 10-minute presentation

Mr David Nisbet, New stem cell strategies for nerve regeneration

David Nisbet a Monash PhD student from the CRC for Polymers has developed a technique which has the potential to revolutionise nerve regeneration using stem cells and “smart” nanomaterials.  This major advance in stem cell research also provides a boost to the search for treatments for crippling conditions, particularly in the areas of Parkinson’s Disease and spinal cord injury.

Nerves lost due to degenerative diseases or spinal cord injury are not regenerated and the consequences for the patient are severe.  Engineering principles and stem cells will be used to regenerate damaged nerves restoring function to the patient.  This will be achieved by engineering next generation polymer materials that assist stem cells in replacing damaged nerves.

A scaffold has been constructed that supports neural stem cells and provides important signals to assist nerves to regrow.  The scaffold is generated from plant seeds and provides a three-dimensional platform and anchor point for the cells.  It functions in a similar way as the temporary scaffolding in building construction – after the scaffold has served its purpose it degrades away leaving the cells to exist on their own natural matrix.  These scaffolds are also capable of guiding nerves within the body to specific locations.

Ms Emily Piper 2008 winnerMs Emily Piper, Early Career Scientist from the CRC for Beef Genetic Technologies, the winner of the 3 minute presentation with Ms Bernie Hobbs, MC and Dr Geoff Garrett, CSIRO Chief Executive and Board Member

Winner – 3-minute presentation

Ms Emily Piper, Australian cattle producers are ticked off!

Emily Piper, a PhD student from the Beef CRC is aiming to find a clean, green way of controlling cattle ticks.  Currently, synthetic insecticides are used to control the cattle tick (Rhipicephalus microplus) but they are costly to producers and their use could possibly leave residues in food products and the environment.

Found in tropical and subtropical environments worldwide, the blood-sucking cattle tick costs Australian cattle producers more than $175 million per year in control costs and lost production.  Heavy tick infestation can also kill animals if they are left untreated.

Emily’s work focuses on identifying the mechanisms responsible for “natural” host resistance against cattle ticks.

Some breeds of cattle such as the Brahman are naturally more resistant to the cattle tick and ticks will die rather than feed on them.  However European breeds such as the Holstein-Friesian and Hereford become heavily infested when there are many ticks in the field.  Controlling ticks by using resistant breeds is not new; however, it is difficult to identify highly resistant animals, especially in cross breed animals.

Emily has shown that Brahman animals have a different profile of immune cells to that of the susceptible Holstein-Friesian animals.  The Brahman cattle had more B cells and helper-T cells in their blood, while the Holstein-Friesian cattle had more macrophage type cells.