Category Archives: Media

Tackling Cancer at Ground Zero with Designer Molecules

A new molecule designed by University of Adelaide researchers shows great promise for future treatment of many cancers.

The new molecule successfully targets a protein that plays a major role in the growth of most cancers. This protein target is called proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), otherwise known as the human sliding clamp.

“PCNA is required for DNA replication and is therefore essential for rapidly dividing cancer cells,” says project leader Dr John Bruning, Senior Research Fellow at the University’s Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS).

“PCNA holds the machinery that copies DNA. The DNA slides through the centre of this donut-shaped protein where it is replicated.

“If we can inhibit the action of this protein, the cells can’t make DNA, so they can’t divide. This is really tackling cancer at ground zero. It’s stopping cell division and therefore tackling cancer at its most fundamental level.

“We also know that PCNA is ‘overexpressed’ – or makes too many copies – in 90% of all cancers. That means it is a potential target for inhibiting the growth of multiple cancers, not just a select few.

“And importantly, this protein seldom mutates which means that it is less likely to develop resistance against a drug inhibitor.”

The research, in collaboration with the University of Wollongong, has been published in Chemistry, A European Journal.

The multi-disciplinary team at IPAS designed a molecule that can interact with PCNA, offering a promising new strategy for the design of a PCNA inhibiting anti‐cancer treatment.

“In this study, we have taken a protein fragment that naturally interacts with PCNA and transformed it using smart chemistry into a drug-like molecule,” says lead author Dr Kate Wegener, Ramsay Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the University of Adelaide’s School of Biological Sciences.

“We’ve changed its chemistry to protect it from degrading like the natural protein, and so that it works better.”

The new molecule shows increased potency over other PCNA inhibitors, and is likely to show less side-effects.

“Because of the special approach we have used in turning a natural protein into a drug-like molecule, it fixes to PCNA more readily and its action is specific to this protein,” says Dr Bruning.

“This is a first. It’s the first in this type of inhibitor and it will pave the way for a new class of drugs inhibiting the proliferation of cancerous cells.”

Source: The University of Adelaide


IPAS Optical Microcavities put forward photonic devices

Optical microcavities are a class of photonic crystals (PCs) that confine light to small volumes by resonant recirculation of electromagnetic waves within the PCs’ structure. They are indispensable for a broad range of applications, including long-distance transmission of data, novel laser sources, quantum communications, sensing and biosensing. In this study Abel and team have developed a pioneering approach for the development of optical microcavities with unprecedented light-confining properties based on self-organised nanoporous anodic alumina photonic crystal platforms. The optimal design of the geometric features and architecture of these PCs can significantly enhance resonant recirculation of light, creating new opportunities to develop ultrasensitive optical platforms, highly selective optical filters, and other photonic devices.

Structural Tailoring of Nanoporous Anodic Alumina Optical Microcavities for Enhanced Resonant Recirculation of Light
Cheryl Suwen Law,  Siew Yee Lim,  Andrew D Abell,  Lluis F. Marsal  and  Abel Santos 

For full article, please click here.

IPAS Novel PPARγ Antagonist – the answer for more effective and safer Type II Diabetes treatment

IPAS researchers have been investigating safer drugs against type two diabetes which are effective at increasing insulin sensitivity without causing side effects. The team has successfully used a number of analytical techniques to determine how these new and improved drugs interact with their target in the body. Their work builds on from previous research undertaken by themselves and others around the globe which focusses on a critical aspect on the development of what can often be a debilitating or even life-threatening condition.

PPARγ in Complex with an Antagonist and Inverse Agonist: A Tumble and Trap Mechanism of the Activation Helix
Rebecca L. Frkic, Andrew C. Marshall, Anne-Laure Blayo, Tara L. Pukala, Theodore M. Kamenecka, Patrick R. Griffin, John B. Bruning



IPAS Semiconductor photonic crystals with optical properties featured in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces

The precise control of light is key for the efficient utilisation of photons in photocatalytic reactions. Semiconductor nanoporous photonic crystal structures with rationally engineered optical properties can speed up photocatalytic reactions up to several orders of magnitude by utilising the slow photon effect. In this study, the Abel Santos team has demonstrated for the first time that photo-active nanoporous anodic alumina photonic crystals can outperform benchmark photocatalytic platform materials by a rational design of their structure. These semiconductor photonic crystals provide superior performances for a plethora of applications, including photodegradation of environmental pollutants, green energy generation, chemical synthesis and CO2 reduction.

Engineering the Slow Photon Effect in Photoactive Nanoporous Anodic Alumina Gradient-Index Filters for Photocatalysis
Siew Yee LimCheryl Suwen LawMarijana MarkovicJason K. KirbyAndrew D. Abell, and Abel Santos
ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, Just Accepted Manuscript

DOI: 10.1021/acsami.8b05946

For full article, please click on this link.



Using Light For Next Generation Data Storage

Tiny, nano-sized crystals of salt encoded with data using light from a laser could be the next data storage technology of choice, following research by Australian scientists.

The researchers from the University of South Australia and University of Adelaide, in collaboration with the University of New South Wales, have demonstrated a novel and energy-efficient approach to storing data using light.

“With the use of data in society increasing dramatically due to the likes of social media, cloud computing and increased smart phone adoption, existing data storage technologies such as hard drive disks and solid state storage are fast approaching their limits,” says project leader Dr Nick Riesen, a Research Fellow at the University of South Australia and Visiting Fellow at the University of Adelaide’s Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS).

“We have entered an age where new technologies are required to meet the demands of 100s of terabyte (1000 gigabytes) or even petabyte (one million gigabytes) storage. One of the most promising techniques of achieving this is optical data storage.”

Dr Riesen and University of Adelaide PhD student Xuanzhao Pan developed technology based on nanocrystals with light-emitting properties that can be efficiently switched on and off in patterns that represent digital information. The researchers used lasers to alter the electronic states, and therefore the fluorescence properties, of the crystals.

Their research shows that these fluorescent nanocrystals could represent a promising alternative to traditional magnetic (hard drive disk) and solid-state (solid state drive) data storage or blu-ray discs. They demonstrated rewritable data storage in crystals that are 100s of times smaller than that visible with the human eye.

“What makes this technique for storing information using light interesting is that several bits can be stored at simultaneously. And, unlike most other optical data storage techniques, the data is rewritable,” says Dr Riesen.

This ‘multilevel data storage’ – storing several bits on a single crystal – opens the way for much higher storage densities. The technology also allows for very low-power lasers to be used, increasing its energy efficiency and being more practical for consumer applications.

“The low energy requirement also makes this system ideal for optical data storage on integrated electronic circuits,” says Professor Hans Riesen from the University of New South Wales.

The technology also has the potential to push forward the boundaries of how much digital data can be stored through the development of 3D data storage.

“We think it’s possible to extend this data storage platform to 3D technologies in which the nanocrystals would be embedded into a glass or polymer, making use of the glass-processing capabilities we have at IPAS,” says Professor Heike Ebendorff-Heidepriem, University of Adelaide. “This project shows the far-reaching applications that can be achieved through transdisciplinary research into new materials.”

Dr Riesen says: “3D optical data storage could potentially allow for up to petabyte level data storage in small data cubes. To put that in perspective, it is believed that the human brain can store about 2.5 petabytes. This new technology could be a viable solution to the great challenge of overcoming the bottleneck in data storage.”

The research is published in the open access journal Optics Express.

For full media release, please click here.

Scientists Pump Up Chances for Quantum Computing

University of Adelaide-led research has moved the world one step closer to reliable, high-performance quantum computing.

An international team has developed a ground-breaking single-electron “pump”. The electron pump device developed by the researchers can produce one billion electrons per second and uses quantum mechanics to control them one-by-one. And it’s so precise they have been able to use this device to measure the limitations of current electronics equipment.

This paves the way for future quantum information processing applications, including in defence, cybersecurity and encryption, and big data analysis.

“This research puts us one step closer to the holy grail – reliable, high-performance quantum computing,” says project leader Dr Giuseppe C. Tettamanzi, Senior Research Fellow, at the University of Adelaide’s Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing.

Published in the journal Nano Letters, the researchers also report observations of electron behaviour that’s never been seen before – a key finding for those around the world working on quantum computing.

“Quantum computing, or more broadly quantum information processing, will allow us to solve problems that just won’t be possible under classical computing systems,” says Dr Tettamanzi.

“It operates at a scale that’s close to an atom and, at this scale, normal physics goes out the window and quantum mechanics comes into play.

“To indicate its potential computational power, conventional computing works on instructions and data written in a series of 1s and 0s – think about it as a series of on and off switches; in quantum computing every possible value between 0 and 1 is available. We can then increase exponentially the number of calculations that can be done simultaneously.”

This University of Adelaide team, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, Aalto University in Finland, University of New South Wales, and the University of Latvia, is working in an emerging field called electron quantum optics. This involves controlled preparation, manipulation and measurement of single electrons. Although a considerable amount of work has been devoted world-wide to understand electronic quantum transport, there is much still to be understood and achieved.

“Achieving full control of electrons in these nano-systems will be highly beneficial for realistic implementation of a scalable quantum computer. We, of course, have been controlling electrons for the past 150 years, ever since electricity was discovered. But, at this small scale, the old physics rules can be thrown out,” says Dr Tettamanzi.

“Our final goal is to provide a flow of electrons that’s reliable, continuous and consistent – and in this research, we’ve managed to move a big step towards realistic quantum computing.

“And, maybe equally exciting, along the way we have discovered new quantum effects never observed before, where, at specific frequencies, there is competition between different states for the capture of the same electrons. This observation will help advances in this game-changing field.”

For full media release, please click here.


IPAS Chip Technology for animal welfare biomarkers funded from APRIL & SARDI

Congratulations to Dr Abel Santos and Prof Mark Hutchinson who were awarded a total of $200k in co-funding from the Australasian Pork Research Institute Ltd (APRIL) and the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI).

A key challenge faced by the Australian pork industry is the need to maintain local production of high quality food for a reasonable price and return on production capital invested, without negatively impacting pig welfare, the environment or the health of the consumer.

The aim of this project will be to develop a lab on a chip technology to integrate multiple laboratory assay functions onto a single miniaturised chip system to streamline the assay protocol for animal welfare biomarkers in pig industry.

Photonic Crystal with novel design and structure published in Scientific Reports

Light-matter interaction is a critical functionality for a plethora of applications such as sensing and biosensing, telecommunications, security, imaging, etc. Photonic crystals (PCs) are optical structures that enable the control of light-matter interactions. In this study, Abel Santos and his team demonstrate the realisation of hybrid nanoporous PCs with finely tuned optical properties across the spectral regions. These PCs allow and forbid the pass of light at specific spectral ranges, with accuracy and versatility, using a smart design of their structural features at the nanoscale to fine-tuning light-matter interactions.

Engineering of Hybrid Nanoporous Anodic Alumina Photonic Crystals  by Heterogeneous Pulse Anodization
Siew Yee Lim, Cheryl Suwen Law, Lluís F. Marsal  & Abel Santos1
Scientific Reports (2018) 8:9455  | DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-27775-6

For full article, please click here.

IPAS laser featured in Physical Review Applied

breathIPAS research group led by Prof Andre Luiten has created a laser that can differentiate gas compounds with high accuracy and precision. This technique not only finds ground breaking applications in environmental monitoring and  industrial contamination but also paves the way for early stage medical diagnostics.

Number-Density Measurements of CO2 in Real Time with an Optical Frequency Comb for High Accuracy and Precision.
Sarah K. Scholten, Christopher Perrella, James D. Anstie, Richard T. White, Waddah Al-Ashwal, Nicolas Bourbeau Hebert, Jerome Genest, and Andre N. Luiten
Phys.Rev.Applied 9, 054043
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevApplied.9.054043

 For full media release, please click here.

IPAS High-sensitivity Biosensor research featured in Science Direct

Stephen WSA new biochemical sensor using specialty optical fibre has been developed by an IPAS team at the University of Adelaide. This new sensor is more sensitive than previous designs while still being fully fibre integrated, meaning it can be used directly with standard optical equipment. The sensor has advantages of bio-compatibility, small size, and low cost, yet is robust and simple. It has good potential for biochemical detection in applications that require real-time monitoring and in-field detection. Congratulations Stephen Warren-Smith  and team!

High-sensitivity Sagnac-interferometer biosensor based on exposed core micro structured optical fiber
Xuegang Li, Linh V.Nguyen, Yong Zhao, Heike Ebendorff-Heidepriem, Stephen C. Warren-Smith
DOI:  10.1016/j.snb.2018.04.165