Thursday, June 17, 2010

Walter & Eliza Hall Institute Discovery Tour

20 May 2010, the next day after my Australian Synchrotron tour, I went to for a discovery tour.

Where is Walter & Eliza Hall Institute (WEHi)? It's behind Royal Melbourne Private Hospital and south of University High School in Parkville, Melbourne. Just next to GTAC where I usually go for science talks!

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

Professor Doug Hilton, director of the institute gave us a welcome and presented an overview of institute research. Medical research is hard work to find cure for diseases! This is what research is actually like. I'm not talking about finding the answer in days or months. From discovery to commerciallization, a research can take up to 10-20 years.

Plus, medical research rely on financial contributions from the public and government initiatives. The contributions you make today will translate to a better and comfortable treatment tomorrow.

A biomedical animator showed us this video. Chun!

Time to hit the labs!

lab bench
This is how a lab bench in a research institute looks like. Unlike web labs in your school/college, you don't get much workspace. But, all the reagents are yours to use!

I was brought into a lab under the Division of Stem Cells and Cancer to hear about breast cancer research.

Dr Julie Sheridan role of stem cells in breast cancer
Dr Julie Sheridan introduced us to the role of stem cells in breast cancer.

Stem cells are the master cells in your body that can form any type of cell. In breasts, stem cells replenishes dead and worn out breast tissue especially during pregnancy and milk production. The last thing you want is these cells develop into tumour. One cause of tumour formation is genetic mutation.

breast cancer spread
Stained cells under the microscope. The dark area is the cancerous tissue.

WEHi discovery tour visitor looking under microscope
Beneath the microscope is a tissue sample of treated breast cancer tissue.

Then, we went into another lab under Division of Autoimmunity and Transplantation to hear about rheumatoid arthritis.

Dr Kate Lawlor rheumatoid arthritis research
Dr Kate talked to us about rheumatoid arthritis.

All of us know joint inflammation (arthritis) is annoying and painful. The focus was on a type of joint inflammation called rheumatoid arthritis. I was told that the condition is quite a complex one, all sorts of immune cells are present at the site of inflammation.

How do those immune cells end up at the joint? It's because of some chemical substances secreted in your body that attracts the immune cells there. The chemical substanced which Dr Kate talked about was Granulocyte Colony-Stimulating Factor (G-CSF).

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute is a happening place in biomedical research, cutting edge research is going on there! On a final note, don't forget the Institute needs your contribution as well. What researchers do behind the scenes actually matter to you a lot, because they are producing the fruit (better and safer treatments) you enjoy in the future.

If you want to donate, drop me a comment guys!

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