As a PhD student, Daniel Green had a keen interest in finding new ways to help sporting people get better at what they do. However, it wasn’t long before he realised that many of the techniques he used to measure human fitness and function could be applied to people at the other end of the health spectrum; patients with heart disease and end-stage heart failure. In subsequent years, Prof Green developed a team at UWA that has had profound impacts on establishing exercise science a recognised allied health profession, leading worldwide agendas to optimise the way that patients are clinically managed using exercise and establishing a better understanding of how exercise exerts its benefits on the heart and arteries.
Using ultrasound, Dr Donna Geddes, Senior Research Fellow at the School of Molecular Sciences, UWA is producing new knowledge on human lactation. Innovative products which, have been developed as a result of her research, have already empowered mothers as well as clinicians with tools to provide babies more breast milk and enhance breastfeeding and ultimately improving the long term health of babies worldwide.
Food security in Timor-Leste became a major issue following its independence in 2002. Having poor farming practices and increasing concerns over food security, by 2015 Timor-Leste was ranked fourth on the Global Hunger Index. During the hungry season which spans 3 – 4 months per year, farmers and their families experience severe food shortages, poverty and chronic hunger, leading to malnutrition and stunted growth in children. The UWA Seeds of Life program has impacted the lives of East Timorese by reducing the hungry season and improving food and nutrition.
Around 1.7 million women are diagnosed with breast cancer world-wide each year, with more than 15,000 women and over 100 men affected in Australia. Of these, around one in four will need repeat surgery to remove tumour cells, often missed in the initial surgery. Microscope-in-a-Needle is a highly miniaturised medical device that fits inside a needle and is capable of detecting cancer cells with high resolution 3D imaging. The Optical Micro-Elastography device will image the stiffness of malignant tissue at a microscopic level, allowing surgeons to feel whether all the tumour is gone. Both devices will be commercialised for theatre use and will significantly improve detection and removal of tumour tissue and reduce or eliminate the need for repeat surgery. These technologies will impact the lives of women and men world-wide.
In Australia, 22 percent of surgeries suffer from an ‘adverse event’. Whilst most events are minor and cause no permanent harm, 13 percent result in some form of disability 18 months later. 48 percent of these adverse events are preventable and as many as 70 percent are due to communication failures. Added to this are growing hospital wait lists and an ageing population. Public hospitals are now looking to implement efficiencies that can relieve the pressure. The SWANS team have come up with a simple, yet fresh approach of introducing pre-surgical briefings to operating theatres, and their pilot studies have already demonstrated very promising results.
Professor David Blair’s mentor at UWA challenged him to look out for the most difficult problems around. David chose gravitational waves. 40 years later the dream was realised after Professor Blair and his team’s contribution enabled the LIGO laser detectors to discover gravitational waves.
Dr Laura Boykin, Computational Biologist at UWA’s School of Chemistry and Biochemistry leads a team referred to by East African locals as the ‘Cassava Warriors’. Their research will result in a cassava plant that is resistant to viruses and whitefly and will help to end extreme poverty in East Africa and other developing countries.