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The $8 million Biology Discovery Centre
nearing completion at Flinders is to have its
own population of penguins.
As well as contributing to research into
reasons for the decline of Little Penguin
numbers in the wild, having penguins on-site
will play a major role in the University’s
teaching programs in animal behaviour.
Biologist Professor Sonia Kleindorfer said it is
expected that 10 penguins will live in a
specially designed enclosure in the Animal
Compound, adjacent to the new building.
Pairs of Little Penguins from the Granite Island
Penguin Conservation group and the
Adelaide Zoo will be lent to Flinders, and it is
hoped that the School of Biological Sciences
will eventually be able to breed up its own
A number of the Flinders penguin colony will
join lizards and songbirds in the Centre’s
three-storey ecosystem or “eco-dome”, which
will be connected to the first-floor animal
The animal burrows in the ecosystem will be
wired for sound and visuals and the live feeds
transmitted to the laboratory, while built-in
scales will allow animals to be weighed
without being handled.
“Students will be able to learn how to do
statistical analysis and data presentation non-
invasively, and while they’re doing it they get
to watch the animals, which will complement
their field trips,” Professor Kleindorfer said.
“We’ll be combining teaching principles about
animal welfare, best practice and non-
Teaching in the new building will begin at the
start of Semester 2 in July, while the dome is
due to be ready for its animal occupants in
Vol 23 No 2 Winter 2012
Penguins enrol for biology
2 The fate of ‘spare’ embryos
3 Taking on diabetes
4 Making artificial knees run and run
5 Midwives prepare to prescribe
6 An answer to eye bags?
7 Mental health for students
8 A prize for being creepy
Flinders researchers tackle type 1 diabetes
A curative treatment for type 1 diabetes
will come under the microscope as part
of a new study by researchers from
Dr Claire Jessup, who has just been
appointed to Flinders on a three-year Vice
Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research
Fellowship, will work in partnership with
Dr Damien Keating in the Human
Physiology Department to improve the
success rate of an experimental procedure
known as pancreatic islet transplantation.
An autoimmune disease, type 1 diabetes
occurs when the beta cells of the pancreas
stop making insulin because the body’s
own immune system has attacked and
destroyed them, causing glucose to build
up in the blood.
Researchers in Australia and across the
world are now experimenting with
pancreatic islet transplantation – a process
whereby islets containing the insulin-
producing beta cells are transplanted from
the pancreas of a deceased organ donor to
the diabetic patient.
It is hoped the procedure will help those
suffering from type 1 diabetes to live
without daily insulin injections.
While clinical trials began in Australia in
2005 following a Federal Government grant
to the Juvenile Diabetes Research
Foundation, Dr Jessup said more research
was needed to find a way to improve the
procedure given that 70 per cent of the cells
die upon transfer.
“Islet transplantation certainly has its
benefits for people with a severe and
debilitating form of diabetes but we really
need to find a way to improve the health of
beta cells so they live longer once they’re
transplanted,” Dr Jessup said.
“These cells only make up one per cent of
the pancreas so it’s very difficult to isolate
them without causing damage and the
other problem is that patients need two to
three transplants, all from different donors,
because the cells can’t multiply,” she said.
Assisted by a team of researchers from
various institutions across Adelaide, Dr
Jessup will investigate the role of a
particular gene called RCAN1 in islet
function, as well as how to increase the
blood supply to the pancreas following
Mangosteen versus melanoma
An exciting breakthrough on the potential
anti-skin cancer properties of the tropical
fruit mangosteen took its researcher,
Flinders University PhD candidate Jing Jing
Wang, to the finals of a prestigious
The Medical Biotechnology student was
one of four finalists in the 17th annual
Ross Wishart Memorial Award of the
Australian Society for Medical Research.
Born in Inner Mongolia, Ms Wang came
to Flinders in 2008 on a research
scholarship to undertake her PhD into the
properties and mechanisms of potential
anti-cancer compounds extracted from
the rind of mangosteen, under the
supervision of Professor Wei Zhang and Dr
With a sweet and juicy texture, the
tropical fruit has been used for centuries
in South East Asia to treat skin infections
and wounds, while its therapeutic
compounds are widely investigated as
potential treatments for breast, lung and
Yet its potential role in skin cancer – which
affects two in three Australians by the
time they are 70 – has been largely
Ms Wang said her studies have shown
the rind of mangosteen can kill
cancerous cells in melanoma and
squamous cell carcinoma, the most
common types of skin cancer, and
prevent them from growing.
Tested on human skin cancer cells, the
compounds from the fruit induced
“apoptosis”, meaning the cells
programmed their own death, and also
stopped the cells from dividing.
“The early stages of skin cancer can be
cured very easily with surgery but it
becomes deadly once it metastasises, yet
we’ve found mangosteen compounds
can inhibit the migration and invasion of
melanoma and squamous cell
carcinoma cells in a laboratory setting,”
Ms Wang said.
Ms Wang has applied for seeding grants
from Flinders and the National Health
and Medical Research Council to further
her research, with the ultimate aim of
developing a topical cream.
“Once melanoma becomes deadly,
mangosteen compounds could be
commercialised into a chemotherapy
treatment which could potentially save
lives, but this would require a lot more
research, animal tests and clinical trials,
which can take decades.”
Dr Claire Jessup
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