Medical & Paramedical Sciences
New postgraduate course for the School of Medical Sciences
Available from Semester Two, 2013, ECU's Master of Disaster and Emergency Response course focuses on response and providing a broad understanding of dealing directly with issues associated with coping and coordinating the scene of a major incident or disaster, and providing support to those involved. The course builds on the growth in emergency response by employing unique delivery and interactive software developed for the program. It enables eligible emergency responders to pursue their need for life-long learning and the acquisition of advanced skills to meet the requirements for employment in an advanced emergency response role.
Research that aims to improve emergency care
In 2012, PhD student Lee Waller launched a research project that evaluates the effectiveness of Continual Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) on patients at the scene of an emergency in the Northern Territory. Mr Waller decided to tackle the project due to the lack of research available in this area. Not only will the study determine if paramedics within the Northern Territory can correctly assess potential detrimental respiratory conditions and deem and apply the appropriate treatment, in addition, further exploration into and evidence about CPAP may lead to potential improvements to the hospital system, with reduced hospital admission times, fewer Intensive Care Unit (ICU) admissions, a reduced need for intubation, and decreased health expenditure all a possibility.
ECU scientists lead the way on Alzheimer's research
A School of Medical Sciences researcher has been awarded $536,949 to investigate the role of associated proteins in early-onset Alzheimer's disease. A team led by ECU's School of Medical science Research Fellow Dr Giuseppe Verdile has received one of just six grants – and the only in WA – from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to look at therapies for dementia.
Alzheimer's disease is characterised by the accumulation of beta amyloid in brain cells, impairing their function. Two proteins in particular, the Presenilins and APP, are critical to the build-up of beta amyloid. The ecu team have discovered that a shortened form of one of the Presenilin proteins, which is known as PS2V, appears to increase the rate at which beta amyloid is formed from app.
ECU researchers' world-first study into Huntington's Disease
ECU researchers are leading a world-first study that may potentially change the way Huntington's disease is treated.
Participants in the 18-month study underwent a regular program of brain-training exercises, gym training and social stimulation. Significant improvements were noted, including:
- participants deteriorating 50% less than the control group when measured by the Unified Huntington's disease rating scale
- an increase in overall body mass while untreated controls lost body mass
- an increase in muscle mass while untreated controls had muscle loss, and
- an increase in overall physical and mental health relative to untreated controls
New test for Alzheimer's
The newly created Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Mental Health has been awarded $23 million from the Federal Government to develop diagnostics and early treatments for Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Schizophrenia and other related disorders.
Chair in Ageing and Alzheimer's disease at ECU and Director of the McCusker Foundation, Professor Ralph Martins and his colleagues will be working with 20 organisations that make up the CRC for Mental Health, including ECU, CSIRO, Hall and Prior, MHRI, McCusker Foundation, Mercy Health and Pfizer.
Mental health illness accounts for 25% of the health burden in Australia. As with many mental illnesses, the early diagnoses and treatment of neurological diseases can have positive impacts on both the patient and their wider families.
Just like blood sugar levels can be used as a biomarker for diabetes, the CRC aims to find small molecules or subtle brain image changes which could act as biomarkers for mental health illnesses. It is hoped that this work will deliver benefits at an economic and social level both to Australia and the rest of the world.
A Joint Health Project Aiming to Reduce Building Pressure on the WA Health System
As the population ages and healthcare needs increase, there is a greater demand on the health system, and that can mean increased difficulty getting the right care at the right time. In line with this, Associate Professor Moira Sim and her team at the Systems Intervention Research Centre for Health have been awarded a State Health Research Advisory Council Research Translation grant to test home care options for patients.
In a joint project between ECU, UWA, St John Ambulance WA and Silver Chain, the paramedics called to the scene will assess whether a patient could be treated at home rather than being taken to a hospital. If the patient has a low risk condition which can be safely treated at home, they will be randomly allocated to one of two conditions: treatment at home or the usual care. Those allocated to the home treatment arm will be assessed by Silver Chain for its Home Hospital. Those in the usual care arm will be transported to hospital.
The research aims to demonstrate the advantages of home care through the analysis of clinical outcomes, patient satisfaction, costs and the use of resources such as hospital beds, with the overall objective of improving healthcare in WA by finding ways to reduce hospital wait times.
Renewed Optimism Propels Parkinson's Research
Molecular biologist Dr Meghan Thomas founded the Parkinson’s Centre (ParkC) at ECU in November 2007. As ParkC’s Coordinator, she provides a focus in Western Australia for a holistic approach to Parkinson’s research that is directed towards curing, halting or reversing the disease's symptoms.
Laboratory work undertaken at ParkC has focused on a family of genes that may have an important role in cell replacement and neuro-restorative therapies. Preliminary data shows that these genes can protect cells vulnerable to Parkinson's and the next step is to determine if this neuro-protective ability is evident in animal trials. Delivery is a parallel challenge and experimental work at ParkC has been testing a convection enhanced delivery system that offers even distribution of potential neuro-protective agents within discrete tissue regions. Dr Thomas’s team is optimistic that its interrelated research streams all lead towards the same outcome – the cure of Parkinson's disease.
Aiming to Beat Cancer with a Simple Blood Test
In 2008, approximately 1,857 Australians died from skin cancer and about 70-80 percent of these deaths were the result of melanomas - the deadliest of all the skin cancers. Many of these deaths, however, were 5, 10 or even 20 years after the melanoma had been removed. But thanks to research at our Melanoma Research Foundation, the incidence of melanoma-related deaths could be substantially reduced.
Associate Professor Ziman leads a research team that is seeking prognostic markers which will determine if metastatic cells are circulating and whether or not they are likely to result in secondary cancers. If this breakthrough is achieved, follow-up treatment in results positive patients will prevent a substantial proportion of the thousands of deaths that occur worldwide each year.
The research team has already identified many markers, but in this complex field where genetic variation between melanoma cells and individuals is a significant factor, correlating markers with high prognostic efficiency is the key to success. That success, given adequate funding, could be only two or three years away.
"A simple blood test that will reliably identify at-risk patients is our goal and we are confident that it is within our reach," Associate Professor Ziman says.
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