11 Dec 2015

Photo of the week: 2015 D.S. Rosengarten Surgical Trainee Research Prize

Mrs Candice Rosengarten presenting the D.S. Rosengarten plate to Dr Katherine Suter, who had come straight from her Alfred ICU shift handover. Mrs Rosengarten is the widow of David Rosengarten and attends each year.
Congratulations to Dr Katherine Suter on winning this year's D.S. Rosengarten Surgical Trainee Research Prize competition on Sat 5 Dec 2015. Katherine presented on “Pre-operative Predictors of Parathyroid Microadenomas”. Adenomas are non-cancerous or 'benign' tumours. However, if they form within the parathyroid gland, they can cause a cascade of different problems, ranging from psychiatric disturbance to bone disease. If discovered, the main mode of treatment is surgical removal. Katherine's study, involving 797 patients, looked at the small, or 'micro' adenomas. The smaller they are, the more invasive the surgery required and less likelihood of cure. She concluded that "microadenomas continue to present as a challenge in both diagnosis and management."

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Video of the week: Ricardo Ataide explains someone else's graph

The 2015 CCS postgraduate symposium included a couple of sections for comic light relief. Dr Ricardo Ataide of the Burnet Institute won the "Explain My Graph" segment, in which the presenter has to talk to a subject with which he or she is not familiar, and has never seen the slides before. Ricardo's own subject area is malaria, but here he fluently explains (or doesn't) a possible therapy for ovarian cancer patients.
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Forthcoming CCS events: Seminars, public events, general notices

2014 CCS postgraduate symposium 
Central Clinical School has regular seminar series and graduate research presentations. All event notices are maintained on the CCS Events calendar. CCS staff & students can see details of both public and local events (including professional development courses, trade fairs and Graduate Research Student calendars) and deadlines, at the CCS Intranet's Announcements page.

Various departments have their own calendars. See CCS seminar index: www.med.monash.edu.au/cecs/events/seminars.html

2015 close

  • University shutdown is 23 Dec 2015 - 3 Jan 2016 inclusive
  • 2016 events will be posted from early Feb 2016.

What's on for this coming week: 14-18 Dec 2015

Mon 14-Dec  12:30 Psychiatry Professorial Grand Round
Thu 17-Dec  17:00 Drop off gifts for Salvation Army pickup to BakerIDI foyer

10 Dec 2015

Combatting superbugs – potential role of combination antibiotic therapy

By Dr Jodie Abramovitch

Infections caused by drug resistant (methicillin-resistant) Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a type of bacteria, can have serious health consequences. These infections are typically found in hospitals but can also occur within the community. MRSA is known as a superbug because it is able to survive many types of antibiotic treatments. 

Prof. Anton Peleg
Daptomycin is a ‘last-line’ antibiotic and is commonly used in the treatment of MRSA infections. However, there is evidence that daptomycin is unable to treat some MRSA infections which means alternative treatments are urgently required to prevent the spread of infection.

Monash researchers Dr Jhih-Hang Jiang and Professor Anton Peleg (Head of the Department of Infectious Diseases) study hospital-acquired infections and have recently focussed on how to combat daptomycin-resistant S. aureus. Samples of S. aureus from patients with infections were isolated and treated with different antibiotics, alone and in combination. When treated with both daptomycin and another antibiotic called gentamicin, antibiotic-resistant S. aureus was more effectively killed when compared to daptomycin treatment alone. However, it was noted that this approach may be associated with toxic side effects when used in patients.

This study concluded that combination therapy is an effective way to treat and limit the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains of S. aureus, particularly in deep-seated, complicated infections. Further research is still required to balance the benefits of this approach with the potential risks. 

Reference: Jiang JH, Peleg AY. Daptomycin-Nonsusceptible Staphylococcus aureus: The Role of Combination Therapy with Daptomycin and Gentamicin. Genes (Basel). 2015 Nov; 6:1256-67

9 Dec 2015

A new treatment to enhance working memory

By Dr Jodie Abramovitch

Non-invasive stimulation of the brain by a weak electrical current can have therapeutic effects in a range of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and depression. A newer form of this non-invasive techniques is transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) which has been shown to improve cognitive processes such as working memory (includes comprehension, reasoning and learning).

A/Prof Kate Hoy
Recently, research conducted by Associate Professor Kate Hoy and colleagues from the Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre (MAPrc) has focused on a closely related form of brain stimulation called transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS). This method of stimulation is thought to induce changes in the brain which more closely mimics natural brain activities.

In this study, healthy individuals were given tACS, tDCS or a sham brain stimulation across separate testing sessions, at least one week apart. Working memory was tested before and after treatment via a series of computerised tasks. Results revealed that working memory was improved in participants following tACS when undertaking more difficult memory tasks. This was not seen in participants treated with tDCS or the sham treatment. 

These results provide a platform for ongoing investigations into tACS and how it may be used to improve cognition.

Reference: Hoy KE, Bailey N, Arnold S, Windsor K, John J, Daskalakis ZJ, Fitzgerald PB. The effect of γ-tACS on working memory performance in healthy controls. Brain Cogn. 2015 Dec; 101:51-6
doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2015.11.002

How does MRI work? Neuroscientist Jerome Maller explains

Jerome Maller is a neuroscientist based at Monash Alfred Psychiatry research centre, whose special area is using Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for brain imaging. In this video, he explains the physics and why the imaging technique is particularly useful for neuroscience.

Congratulations to Alfred medical students on their prizes!

L-R: Prof John Wilson, Ms Youlin Koh & Prof Anne
Powell. Youlin won the Harriet Power Prize.
Prof Wendy Brown, Mr Yiliang Zheng and Prof John Wilson.
Yiliang won the Robert Power prize in Surgery.

Congratulations to the following medical students who have won prizes this year!
  • Mr Yiliang Zheng won the Robert Power Prize in Surgery, where $2000 is awarded to a Year 5D student from CCS.
  • Ms Youlin Koh won the Harriet Power Prize in Medicine where $2000 awarded to a Year 5D MBBS student from CCS
  • Mr Alexander Olaussen (BMedSci 2013) won the Hatem Salem Award for Medical Research Excellence. $500 prize awarded to a Year 5D student who has completed a Bachelor of Medical Science (Honours) at Central Clinical school based on a one page application outlining the impact of his or her research (including publications, presentations, ongoing work, translation). 
  • Mr Michael Moso (BMedSci 2014) won the Nip Thomson Award for Medical Student Clinical and Research Excellence. $500 prize awarded to a Year 5D student who has completed a Bachelor of Medical Science (Honours) at Central Clinical School and receives the highest score for his or her general medical rotation at Alfred Health.
  • Ms Sophia Marple won the Alfred Hospital Residents’ and Graduates’ Association Prize which is $400 and a medallion awarded to the final year student who, after studying at Alfred Health, obtains the highest aggregate marks in Surgery and Medicine.
See more about CCS's undergraduate medical student prizes.

PhD student wanted for MS research

Dr Steven Petratos with his MS Research group
A PhD student is sought for research on axonal degeneration in a model of multiple sclerosis.

Project description

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is commonly induced by the specific destruction of the protective sheath of nerve fibres, known as myelin, by immune cells, which mistakenly attack this structure. However, it has been shown that MS does not only consist of this disease pattern but is a multifactorial disease with continual destruction of the nerve fibres even without large numbers of immune cells invading the brain and the spinal cord. Importantly, the molecules which may contribute or initiate such damage in MS are becoming known. By targeting these molecules during MS, it may be possible to limit the destruction which occurs to nerve fibres in the brain and spinal cord, promoting a better clinical outcome for individuals suffering with MS.

The project is investigating how damage occurs in nerve fibres with progressive clinical symptoms in the experimental animal model of MS. We plan to block the molecules that cause the nerve fibre deterioration, using a new technique of transplanting modified blood stem cells to deliver blocking agents to the brain and spinal cord.

Please make enquiries to:

Food items and toys wanted for Baker IDI Salvos Christmas appeal

Contribute to the Baker IDI Institute's Salvos Christmas appeal! Every year the Baker IDI Institute collects donations for the Salvos Christmas appeal. They are under the Baker IDI Christmas tree located in their foyer, 75 Commercial Road, Melbourne 3004.
Food items and toys are wanted by COB Thursday 17 Dec 2015 for collection on Friday 18 Dec.
See more.
  • Salvation Army: Kris Ryan ph 03 88782364
  • Baker IDI: Leonie Cullen 03 85321161

Odd spot: Remind me again, what is thalidomide?

Phocomelia was a common birth defect
from taking thalidomide during pregnancy
The Conversation is running a series on thalidomide – the history of the tragedy, its long-term impacts and the fight for justice. In this story, medical historian Arthur Daemmrich sets the scene of the mid-20th century drug landscape and explains how thalidomide was marketed, used, and withdrawn after causing thousands of birth defects.

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