Imaging metals in worms

Caenorhabditis elegans might not be an animal you’re particularly familiar with, but this humble little worm is one of the most important tools we have for studying metals in biological systems. These 1 mm long roundworms are self-fertilising, meaning you can raise literally millions of genetically identical offspring, and they were the first multi-cellular organism to have their entire genome mapped.

In a paper we’ve just published (coming from blog contributor Dr Gawain McColl) in Metallomics (grab it for free here), we partnered with researchers at the Australian Synchrotron’s X-ray Fluorescence  Microscopy beamline and our new collaborator Dr Verena Wimmer, who runs the great Florey Advanced Microscopy Facility to look at how we can use a range of different techniques to examine metals in this worm at sub-micrometre levels.

TOC figure

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Posted in Irons in the fire: News from our lab

Sneak peak: 3D printing metals in the brain

C1 PAGE.inddWe’ve been harping on about our recent Chemical Science paper, which officially was published this week and can be downloaded for free here. Firstly, thanks to our friend Jonas Marnell of Ethix Design in Melbourne for the amazing cover artwork shown here.

Anyway, we’re not done showing off. We’ve been looking into how we can best represent the data we’ve been generating in new and exciting forms more digestible for the non-neuroscientists.

Read more about what we’ve been up to after the jump.

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Posted in Irons in the fire: News from our lab

Imaging metals in biology: a guide for the uninitiated

Artistic reproduction of calcium in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegansJust recently, myself, fellow Ferrumblogger and worm-expert Dr Gawain McColl, with friends of the blog Dr Martin de Jonge (a physicist from the Australian Synchrotron) and Dr Elizabeth New from Sydney University published a tutorial review in the famed chemistry journal, Chemical Society Reviews (you can access the paper for free here). This paper set out to describe to the undergraduate chemistry student and above just what’s out there when it comes to imaging metals in biology at the level of the cell. In what turned out to be one of the more enjoyable papers to write, this review covers a range of topics that is designed to help fellow chemists and biologists alike appreciate just how much better science is when we all work together. Read more after the jump, and credit to our friend Jonas Marnell at Ethix Design for the funky artwork that appeared on the journal’s back cover.

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Posted in Irons in the fire: News from our lab

Hit us where it hurts, Einstein…

decisions-a-girl-s-worst-nightmare_design

From Homebrewed Tees

Posted in Metal filings: Odds and ends from around the web

Mapping metals in the brain

A while ago we wrote a paper on creating a three-dimensional atlas of metals in the mouse brain in the journal Analytical Chemistry, which you can find here at AC’s website if you have access through your university, and the atlas itself for WithBetterDefinedZnfree here (warning, it’s a 50 mb file).

Well, after some kind funding from the Australia Research Council, through an industry partnership scheme with Agilent Technologies (who make our precious metal detectors–precious in that we couldn’t live without them!) and ESI (who make lasers–and everybody loves lasers!) we’ve just published out follow-up study in Chemical Science which is so hot off the press it hasn’t reached the press yet (click here to access the accepted manuscript for free), which takes the next step to a standardised map of metals in the mouse brain.

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Posted in Freshly forged: New research from our lab

Early life iron exposure: Is it a risk factor for neurodegeneration?

ToothReaders of this blog would have noticed a common theme: we seem to think metals have an awful lot to do with neurodegeneration. What we’re not sure of is whether this is a simple effect of disease, or maybe part of the cause. Just a few days ago, a Perspective from Dominic Hare and Philip Doble from UTS, David Finkelstein, Nicole Jenkins and Ashley Bush from the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health and long-time collaborator of Dominic’s, A/Prof Manish Arora of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City was published online at Nature Reviews Neurology discussing how iron exposure during early life might be at the very root of neurodegeneration, and how the secrets might be unlocked by looking into our teeth.

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Posted in Irons in the fire: News from our lab

New research: Traumatic brain injury induces elevation of Co in the human brain

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) affects over 10 million people every year, including over 22,000 Australians. It’s also one of the leading causes of death and injury for young people, and has been implicated in the development of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease later in life. Repeated brain injury is very likely the reason Muhammad Ali developed Parkinson’s disease, likely towards the end of his boxing career. We’ve just recently published a Communication over at Metallomics describing how, in the brains of people who died as a result of TBI, levels of soluble cobalt (Co) are significantly increased.

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Posted in Irons in the fire: News from our lab

How the brain destroys itself

Dominic Hare recently gave a public lecture as part of the UTS Science in Focus called ‘How the brain destroys itself’, described as:

…a cautionary tale about how our brains grow, live and die; and how the chemistry of the brain that makes humans so unique might be responsible for why things go wrong.

You can watch the video below, and read the transcript here.

Posted in Irons in the fire: News from our lab

Our zinc in serum research featured in Chemistry World

Our latest research has been written up as a research highlight by the good folks over at Chemistry World, the Royal Society of Chemistry’s monthly publication. Head on over and check it out, and you can read our own write up here.

Posted in Metal filings: Odds and ends from around the web

New research: Decreased serum zinc is an effect of ageing and not Alzheimer’s disease

Some new work from our group has just gone online over at Metallomics. Pinning down the role of zinc in Alzheimer’s disease has long been a challenge to people in the AD field. In 1994, our colleague Ashley Bush found that zinc induces the formation of beta-amyloid aggregates, which are a common feature of the disease, made up predominately of a short peptide that is thought to be the major cause of toxicity in AD. Since then, zinc has been the focus of much AD research, but directly associating an element that has a number of important brain functions with a drawn-out disease process is no mean feat.

The Australian Imaging, Biomarkers and Lifestyle Flagship Study of Ageing, or AIBL for short, is a project run by the CSIRO and a number of academic partners in Melbourne and Perth that consists of one of the world’s largest assembled group of AD patients, complete with healthy controls and a number of people classified as being ‘mildly cognitively impaired’, several of who have transitioned to AD over the 54+ months the study has been active for. Among other things, AIBL is designed to help find a viable biomarker to AD so that diagnosis might be possible long before disease symptoms occur. One of the many targets for the AIBL study is zinc in serum, considering the numerous studies that have previously reported a decrease in zinc in people with AD, and it’s apparent role in beta-amyloid plaque formation. Using the 1,000+ serum samples in AIBL, we found something else interesting about zinc…

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Posted in Freshly forged: New research from our lab