Inbox and Environment News - Issue 222
July 12 - 18, 2015: Issue 222
Draft change to Mining Policy on exhibition
Media Release: The Hon. Rob Stokes MP, Minister for Planning - 7 Jul 2015
The NSW Government today released a proposed amendment to the Mining SEPP, which would remove a provision making the significance of the resource the principle consideration under the Mining SEPP when determining mining projects.
The State Environmental Planning Policy (Mining, Petroleum Production and Extractive Industries) 2007 is otherwise known as the Mining SEPP.
Planning Minister Rob Stokes said the draft amendment reflects the legislative requirement for decision makers to consider the likely environmental, social and economic impacts of a mining development.
“The protection of the environment and the promotion of the social and economic welfare of the community have always been objects of planning legislation,” Mr Stokes said.
“The careful deliberation of environmental, economic and social issues is fundamental to good planning.
“This proposed amendment reflects the importance of balance in assessing the likely impacts of mining developments.”
To view the draft amendment and to make a submission, please visitwww.planning.nsw.gov.au/onexhibition.
A complete review of the Mining SEPP is currently underway and will be subject to public consultation later this year.
Exhibition Concludes 21/07/2015
Direct link at: planspolicies.planning.nsw.gov.au/index.job_id=7151
SAVE THE LIVERPOOL PLAINS: It's YOUR problem too.
The Shenhua Watermark Mine Gets Federal Approval
July 9, 2015 - EDO NSW (Environmental Defenders Office NSW)
The Shenhua Watermark mine has received Federal government approval: www.environment.gov.au/…/2011-6201-approval-decision…
This is the same mine that EDO NSW is representing Upper Mooki Landcare Inc in a current challenge to its approval by the NSW Government.
As our Principal Solicitor, Sue Higginson, says "Shenhua needs both state and commonwealth approvals to lawfully mine and work on the site. The state approval is currently under challenge in the court by our client. In these circumstances the usual practice is not to commence any ground works until the outcome of the proceedings/case is known”:
A hearing has been set for 31 August to 3 September in the NSW Land and Environment.
Have your say on proposed modifications to the Moolarben coal mine
Media Release: Department of Planning and Environment: 8 Jul 2015
Concurrent proposals to modify Stages 1 and 2 of the Moolarben coal mine are on exhibition for community feedback.
The Department of Planning and Environment is keen to hear the community’s views on the two applications, which seek to:
Increase the size of longwall panels in an already approved mining area and relocate underground mine access arrangements, allowing an additional 3.7 million tonnes of coal to be recovered over the life of the mine
change the size of one coal stockpile and the location of another coal stockpile
build mine support infrastructure, including a coal conveyor and ventilation shaft
increase the approved production and transportation limits.
A spokesperson for the Department of Planning and Environment said the local community always has an opportunity to share their views.
“Community consultation is an integral part of the planning process and the applicant will have to respond to the feedback we receive and this is taken into consideration when we develop our recommendations,” the spokesperson said.
“It’s easy to participate by going online and we encourage everyone to take a look and have their say.
“The Department is obliged to address all proposals it receives, and consistently applies strict rules in assessing applications.”
To make a submission or view the environmental assessment, visitwww.majorprojects.planning.nsw.gov.au. Submissions can be made from Friday 3 July 2015 until Friday 31 July 2015.
Written submissions can also be made to:
Attn: Planning Services
GPO Box 39
Sydney NSW 2001
The EA is also available to view in person at:
Department of Planning and Environment, 23-33 Bridge Street, Sydney
Mid-Western Regional Council, Administration Centre, 86 Market Street, Mudgee
Nature Conservation Council, Level 2, 5 Wilson Street, Newtown
Direct link here
Coal spill into Wollangambe River from Centennial Coal's Clarence Colliery near Lithgow
Published on 4 Jul 2015 by Kate Ausburn
An incident on Thursday 2 July at Centennial Coal’s Clarence Colliery mine site near Lithgow has resulted in water and coal fines entering the Wollangambe River. The EPA is investigating and has described what happened as "a serious environmental incident". This video was filmed on Saturday 4 July.
EPA Investigating incident at Clarence Colliery
Media release: 2 July 2015
An incident today at Centennial Coal’s, Clarence Colliery mine site near Lithgow has resulted in water and coal fines entering the Wollangambe River.
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) was made aware of the incident this morning and we had an EPA officer on site for most of the day.
EPA South Director, Gary Whytcross, said that while it is not currently known exactly how much of the coal fines material had left the site but that at least 150 metres of the Wollangambe River was showing signs of impact.
“The cause of the incident is still being investigated but the EPA is obviously very concerned about any impacts on the Wollangambe River, which runs into the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area approximately 2 kilometres downstream of the mine.
“This is a very sensitive environment.
“A full assessment of environmental impacts is continuing and the EPA is collecting evidence on to determine potential breaches of the environmental legislation,” Mr Whytcross said.
The Clarence Colliery has applied its Emergency Protocol and is currently in shut down. They are cooperating with all relevant authorities.
EPA continuing investigation into incident at Clarence Colliery
Media release: 3 July 2015
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is continuing its investigations today into a serious environmental incident at the Centennial Coal, Clarence Colliery mine site near Lithgow.
EPA Director South, Gary Whytcross, said the EPA’s focus was on determining the extent of the environmental damage and getting the clean-up underway.
“This is a serious environmental incident with tonnes of coal fines material estimated to have left the site and entered the surrounding environment.
“The environmental impacts of this incident are the focus of our actions at the moment, with two EPA officers and scientists from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) on site and undertaking various sampling.
“The Wollangambe River is our greatest concern and determining the impacts to the river is a priority,” Mr Whytcross said.
The EPA has instructed Centennial Coal to erect silt fences between the mine site and the Wollangambe River to prevent further impacts.
Clean up activities are being undertaken by Centennial Coal but are expected to take many weeks given the extent of the incident and the difficult terrain in which the material has been deposited.
“The cause of the incident is still being investigated and the EPA is continuing to collect evidence to determine potential breaches of the environmental legislation,” Mr Whytcross said.
Clean-up progressing after serious environmental incident at Clarence Colliery mine
Media release: 7 July 2015
The NSW Environment Protection Authority is continuing to monitor the clean-up actions and investigate environmental impacts after coal fines, and course reject material left the Centennial Coal, Clarence Colliery mine site and entered the surrounding environment last week.
EPA CEO Barry Buffier and Chief Environmental Regulator Mark Gifford inspected the mine site today with EPA officers including examining impacts to the Wollangambe River.
“This is clearly a major incident and the EPA is mobilising significant resources in response,” Barry Buffier said.
The EPA issued a Clean-up Notice to Centennial Coal on Friday 3 July which outlined strict clean-up requirements including; the installation of silt fences between the mine site and the Wollangambe River to prevent any further impact and the clean-up of the coal fine material that deposited in the Wollangambe River and 50 metres above it.
“EPA inspections today verified that silt fences had been installed and the clean-up is progressing.
“Clean-up activities are expected to continue for some time given the extent of the incident and the difficult terrain in which the material has been deposited.
“Officers from the EPA will be onsite again tomorrow and over the coming weeks to continue to monitor the clean-up.”
Mr Buffier said the EPA is continuing its investigation into the cause of the incident and is receiving expert scientific advice about the environmental impact.
“The EPA will review analysis of water samples which are expected to be received early next week. This will inform further clean-up requirements.
“The EPA’s legal investigation is also continuing.”
Pittwater YHA Envirofun Weekend August 28-30.
Do something important and have fun too! PNHA assists with birding and botany activities. Eight years of Asparagus removal in Spotted Gum forest have transformed the bush. Go with friends, book through the hostel.
Volunteer for two mornings’ bush regeneration and receive:
• Free accommodation
• 2 evening meals + 2 BBQ lunches + 2 morning teas
• Free use of kayaks
• Alternatively come for a Sat or Sun morning's bush regeneration
and enjoy a morning tea & bbq lunch & kayak
Cost: $20 contribution for a weekend of great company, food and activities.
Bookings Essential: $50 non-refundable booking fee with a $30 refund on arrival.
Phone: 9999 5748 Email: email@example.com
Pittwater YHA Backpacker Hostel - Nature & Wildlife Heaven
Pittwater YHA hostel is nestled on the hillside of Morning Bay in Ku-ring-gai National Park. This hostel is an easy escape from the busy city life of Sydney and ideal for groups.
The Australasian gannet (Morus serrator or Sula bassana), also known as Australian gannet and Tākapu - A J Guesdon Pic. 2015.
Global trends show seabird populations dropped 70 percent since 1950s
July 9, 2015 - UBC research shows world's monitored seabird populations have dropped 70 per cent since the 1950s, a stark indication that marine ecosystems are not doing well.
Michelle Paleczny, a UBC master's student and researcher with the Sea Around Us project, and co-authors compiled information on more than 500 seabird populations from around the world, representing 19 per cent of the global seabird population. They found overall populations had declined by 69.6 per cent, equivalent to a loss of about 230 million birds in 60 years.
"Seabirds are particularly good indicators of the health of marine ecosystems," said Paleczny. "When we see this magnitude of seabird decline, we can see there is something wrong with marine ecosystems. It gives us an idea of the overall impact we're having."
The dramatic decline is caused by a variety of factors including overfishing of the fish seabirds rely on for food, birds getting tangled in fishing gear, plastic and oil pollution, introduction of non-native predators to seabird colonies, destruction and changes to seabird habitat, and environmental and ecological changes caused by climate change.
Seabirds tend to travel the world's oceans foraging for food over their long lifetimes, and return to the same colonies to breed. Colony population numbers provide information to scientists about the health of the oceans the birds call home.
Albatross, an iconic marine bird that lives for several decades, were part of the study and showed substantial declines. Paleczny says these birds live so long and range so far that they encounter many dangers in their travels. A major threat to albatross is getting caught on longline fishing hooks and drowning, a problem that kills hundreds of thousands of seabirds every year.
"Our work demonstrates the strong need for increased seabird conservation effort internationally," said Paleczny. "Loss of seabirds causes a variety of impacts in coastal and marine ecosystems"
Seabirds play an important role in those ecosystems. They eat and are eaten by a variety of other marine species. They also transport nutrients in their waste back to the coastal ecosystems in which they breed, helping to fertilize entire food webs.
The study, published in PLOS ONE, is the first to estimate overall change in available global seabird population data. It is a collaboration between UBC researchers Paleczny, Vasiliki Karpouzi and Daniel Pauly and Edd Hammill, a lecturer at the University of Technology, Sydney in Australia.
Michelle Paleczny, Edd Hammill, Vasiliki Karpouzi, Daniel Pauly. Population Trend of the World’s Monitored Seabirds, 1950-2010. PLOS ONE, 2015; 10 (6): e0129342 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0129342
Cooee! Environmental Newsletter - July/August 2015
Welcome to Dog Day by the Bay 2015; Kids on the Coast - Winter; Indian Myna Eradication Program; Swamp Wallaby sighted at Turimetta; Protect your cat, protect our wildlife!; Cats and wildlife expo - Sunday 26 July; Trial de-sexing program; Reducing woodsmoke; Weed alert: Rhus Tree; Gardening volunteers needed - Mona Vale; National Tree Day; What’s your beef?; Weed Society of NSW giveaway!; Looking for a creative outlet?; New phone app for Pittwater’s walks; Bush regen and envirofun weekend!; The Mona Vale Sustainable Home; Hawkesbury Shelf Marine Bioregion Assessment; Costa gets serious about soil; Bushcare schedules - July and August
National Tree Day 2015
26th Jul 2015: 9am - 9am
Come along to Whitney Reserve, Pittwater’s venue to participate in this year's National Tree Day. Come along and help plant areas of the creekline and adjacent slope with native plants.
Please wear appropriate clothing (long sleeves, trousers, sturdy shoes and a hat) and bring a bottle of water.
Council will provide you with refreshments and free native plants for you to plant in your own garden.
Venue: Whitney Reserve, Whitney Street, Mona Vale
Contact: Jenny Cronan at Pittwater Council - 9970 1357
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park - Expression of Interest
Published on 8 Jul 2015
Expression of Interest for Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is now open. For more information, visit www.eoi.uluru.gov.au
EPA requires pollution reduction for western Sydney plant
Media release: 6 July 2015
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has imposed a legally binding pollution reduction program on the environment protection licence held by Sydney Water for the Winmalee Sewage Treatment Plant, to further protect the Nepean River.
The pollution reduction program requires the sewage treatment plant at Winmalee in the Blue Mountains to reduce the level of nutrients discharged into Winmalee Lagoon and the Nepean River.
“The Winmalee Sewage Treatment Plant contributes more nutrients to the Hawkesbury-Nepean River system than any of the other 16 sewage treatment plants within the catchment,” EPA Metropolitan Branch Director Giselle Howard said.
“The PRP requires Sydney Water, the operator of the treatment plant, to design various options for upgrades to the plant.
“The EPA will then decide which design delivers the best environmental and economic outcomes for the river and the community,” she said.
“The Winmalee Sewage Treatment Plant has not performed to reasonable standards so we are pleased Sydney Water is working with us to reduce the plant’s impact on the Hawkesbury-Nepean River system.”
The three designs are due to the EPA by December 2016 with construction to be completed within five years.
Excessive nutrients in waterways can result in the growth of algae and weeds and reduce oxygen levels, affecting water quality and aquatic habitats.
Pollution reduction programs (PRPs) are legally enforceable and can be imposed by the EPA to reduce pollution or environmental harm.
PRPs are one of several regulatory tools the EPA uses to drive improved environmental performance by licensees. For more information about the EPA’s approach to regulation and environmental compliance download a copy of the EPA’s Compliance Policy: www.epa.nsw.gov.au/legislation/prosguid.htm.
The details of all PRPs are available on the EPA website via the public register: www.epa.nsw.gov.au/prpoeoapp/
Ag white paper delivers opportunities for NSW producers
8 July 2015: Media Release
Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, today joined Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Member for Riverina, Michael McCormack, to examine the local benefits of the $4 billion Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper on a farm near Wagga Wagga.
Minister Joyce said the long-term benefits of the Australian Government’s investment were clear.
“We are investing in up to $250 million in Drought Concessional Loans each year for the next 11 years, $500 million in a National Water Infrastructure Fund, $200 million to improve biosecurity surveillance and analysis and $100 million to extend the Rural R&D for Profit Programme until 2021-22,” Minister Joyce said.
“Other initiatives in this White Paper include the new ACCC Agricultural Enforcement and Engagement Unit and dedicated Commissioner that starts this year, allowing farmers to use Farm Management Deposits as a loan offset from 2016 and revised accelerated depreciation regimes for water, fodder storage and fencing that are already available.”
Parliamentary Secretary McCormack said the long term benefits for Riverina farmers in the White Paper were clear.
“The White Paper delivers a policy approach that aims to give all farmers a fair go and a fair price—nothing could be more valuable to my electorate,” Parliamentary Secretary McCormack said.
“The investment of $11.4 million will boost ACCC engagement with the agricultural sector to strengthen competition and address any misuse of market power.
“There is an investment of $13.8 million in a two-year pilot programme to provide farmers with knowledge and materials on cooperatives, collective bargaining and innovative business models.
“What this government is doing is making sure that farmers have the skills to protect their interests and maximise their profits.”
Minister Joyce said the White Paper measures would assist everyone in regional communities – suppliers, agribusiness, local business – as well as the nation’s economy.
“This White Paper is about better returns to the farmgate and taking practical actions to keep farming families profitable and resilient. It’s also about keeping regional Australia strong and vibrant and creating well-paying jobs in agriculture—one of the reasons we’re looking to move the Grains Research and Development Corporation outside of Canberra, possibly to Wagga Wagga.
“When done strategically, to better locate agencies to sit within the communities they serve, the outcomes of decentralisation are there for all to see,” Minister Joyce said.
The White Paper was informed by comprehensive stakeholder consultation – more than 1000 submissions were receive and the government talked face-to-face with more than 1100 people across the country in developing the document.
The White Paper is available at agwhitepaper.agriculture.gov.au.
Proposed Snubfin Dolphin Park
Snubfin dolphins were newly discovered in 2005, but they are already under threat. Please ask the Government of Western Australia to commit to a marine sanctuary in Roebuck Bay.
The largest known population of snubfin dolphins can be found playing and hunting in Roebuck Bay, on the doorstep of Broome.
We've been asking the WA Government to commit to a new marine park in Roebuck Bay, to protect these amazing creatures.
The Government has just released a draft, and astonishingly, the planned Yawuru Nagulagun/Roebuck Bay Marine Park has no fully protected "sanctuary zone".
If the park goes ahead, it would become the only ocean marine park in WA without a sanctuary zone.
The science behind marine parks shows sanctuary zones are their heart, increasing the size and abundance of marine life. They provide a safe haven for breeding fish and a healthy feeding ground for animals like snubfin dolphins, turtles and dugongs.
Fortunately this is just a draft and the Government is now asking us to have our say on the future of Roebuck Bay.
Your voice is needed to make sure the WA Government provides a protected sanctuary for the marine life of Roebuck Bay.
Thanks for speaking up for our snubbies!
AMCS Marine Parks Campaign Manager
National Whale Trail projects approved for 11 coastal communities
Media release: 8 July 2015 - Minister for the Environment - The Hon Greg Hunt MP.
Tourists, locals and whale watchers at 11 sites around Australia will have a better view and understanding of migrating whales as they travel along the Australian coast thanks to $250,000 in funding from the Australian Government's National Whale Trail initiative.
Australians love marine wildlife and there is a genuine demand for land-based vantage points along the coastline to view these magnificent migrating whales.
The Government's National Whale Trail initiative provides funding to local communities to help them build whale viewing platforms and interpretive signage to inform and educate visitors about migratory whales.
The 11 communities will benefit from grants of up to $25,000 as part of the development of viewing sites across Australia's whale migratory route.
Several of Australia's most popular whale-watching spots including Bryon Bay and the Sunshine Coast are receiving funding to improve their visitors' experiences.
Other successful projects include:
developing a whale watching trail between Kingscote and Brownlow in South Australia, which will include viewing platforms, telescopes, seating and signage
extending and enhancing the Solitary Island Coastal Walk with new accessible trails, seating and viewing platforms in Woolgoolga, New South Wales
constructing viewing platforms and interpretive and educational information at multiple viewing sites around Tasmania.
Developing a national whale watching network will encourage knowledge sharing among locals and visitors about whale and dolphin conservation.
The National Whale Trail initiative will enhance and promote understanding in the community about the importance of protecting whales and dolphins.
The National Whale Trail initiative is part of a $2 million investment by the Australian Government under its Whale and Dolphin Protection Plan.
For more information about the Whales and Dolphins Protection Plan go to www.nrm.gov.au/national/local/whale-dolphin-protection
Proposed landscaping and park structures at the Platypus site, Neutral Bay
The Sydney Harbour Federation Trust is inviting submissions from the public regarding proposed landscaping and park structures at the northern end of the former HMAS Platypus site in Neutral Bay. The proposal comprises landscaped terraces, plazas, paths, lookouts, wharf improvements and a spiral walkway that interprets the site’s historical use.
The proposal would complete the remediation of contaminated ground in the northern part of the site, in line with the outcomes identified in the Harbour Trust’s Comprehensive Plan. It marks the final stage of the below-ground remediation works and the beginning of the vision of moving Platypus towards becoming a new Urban Park on Sydney’s lower north shore.
The proposal is on public exhibition from Thursday 18 June to Wednesday 15 July 2015 and submissions are invited until 5pm on Wednesday 15 July 2015.
See this page for more information: HERE
TURNING THE TIDE ON MARINE MANAGEMENT
The NSW Government is improving the management of our precious marine estate with the launch of a new Threat and Risk Assessment Framework.
Minister for Primary Industries, Niall Blair, and Minister for the Environment, Mark Speakman, today released new guidelines on how the NSW Government will assess the threats and risks to our marine estate.
“Last year, an historic bill passed the NSW Parliament to make sure the state’s marine estate is managed based on science and not politics,” Mr Blair said.
“This is the first step in implementing this Marine Estate Management Act 2014, which sets out a robust legal requirement to assess economic, social and environmental threats, such as pollution, loss of biodiversity, restricted access, anti-social behaviour, and impacts of pests and diseases.
“This framework, developed by the Marine Estate Management Authority with expert guidance from the Marine Estate Expert Knowledge Panel, is at the heart of the NSW Liberals & Nationals Government’s new era in marine estate management.”
Mr Speakman said the framework will consider not only the imminent threats to our coasts and marine waters, but also the cumulative impacts and potential threats over the coming decades.
“This will allow the NSW Government to focus its efforts around the key threats to the marine environment, and deliver on its vision for a healthy coast and sea,” Mr Speakman said.
“We are committed to managing our marine environment for the greatest well-being of the community, now and into the future.”
Initially the framework will be applied to two key projects:
- a state-wide Marine Estate Threat and Risk Assessment; and
- the Hawkesbury Shelf Marine Bioregion Assessment, covering the area from Newcastle to Shellharbour.
The community is encouraged to have their say about both of these projects and the framework in the coming months, and the Authority may refine the framework over time after it has been applied to the first two projects.
The Ministers also today launched an interactive web portal to allow the community to have input into the Hawkesbury Shelf Marine Bioregion Assessment by providing local information on benefits and threats associated with their favourite sites within the bioregion.
The NSW Government is now seeking crucial information from the public regarding sites within the bioregion, the benefits they gain from their use of these sites, and what they see as key threats and ideas on how to manage those threats.
Along with expert input, the information people provide will help identify management options to enhance marine biodiversity conservation whilst maximising community benefits.”
Eleven sites in the Hawkesbury marine bioregion have already been identified for priority assessment and the community is invited to nominate additional sites via the web portal that they would like to see considered:
• Barrenjoey Head (an existing Aquatic Reserve)
• Bouddi National Park Marine Extension
• Bronte-Coogee (an existing Aquatic Reserve)
• Cape Banks (an existing Aquatic Reserve)
• Chowder Bay
• Long Reef (an existing Aquatic Reserve)
• Narrabeen Head (an existing Aquatic Reserve)
• North Harbour (an existing Aquatic Reserve)
• North Harbour extension – Manly Wharf and Manly Cove
• Magic Point, Malabar
• Wybung Head
The web portal, framework and more information can be accessed at www.marine.nsw.gov.au
The web portal will be open until 28 August 2015.
2015 Environment Minister's Award for a Cleaner Environment
Media release: The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Minister for the Environment
I am delighted to mark World Environment Day 2015 with a call for nominations for this year's Environment Minister's Award for a Cleaner Environment.
This award aims to recognise outstanding contributions by Australians towards achieving a cleaner, healthier environment and a more resilient and sustainable Australia.
The Australian Government's plan for a Cleaner Environment plan rests on the pillars of Clean Air, Clean Land and Clean Water and national heritage protection.
I want this award to recognise Australians taking practical, direct action under one or more of the three environment pillars - air, land and water. I know how many groups and individuals across the nation are working locally to achieve great things, not only for their own communities but for environmental health of the nation.
The Minister's award is part of the 2015 Banksia Sustainability Awards programme and is open to individuals, businesses or community organisations working towards a cleaner environment.
Projects that demonstrate how they have contributed to the Government's Clean Air, Land and Water environmental pillars are eligible for consideration. Projects need to address at least one or more of the pillars.
Clean Air entries could involve projects including revegetation and land management, energy efficiency, pollution control and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, recycling and waste management.
Clean Land entries could include work to protect threatened species, eradicate weeds and reduce fuel in bushland reserves, protect beaches from erosion or rehabilitate coastal foreshores.
Clean Water entries may be stabilising riverbanks and reducing weed density to promote healthy local waterways or taking action to help marine species in our oceans.
For more information on the Environment Minister's Award for a Cleaner Environment, including a nomination form, go tohttp://banksiafdn.com/awards/
Nominations close on 4 September 2015.
E-waste: What we throw away doesn't go away
July 8, 2015 – Griffith University, South Australia
In the life of almost every household appliance, there comes that moment of out with the old and in with the new.
However, while electrical and electronic equipment have never been more efficient, economical or in demand, consumers' desire to own the best and the latest is contributing to an environmental issue of increasing seriousness and concern.
"E-waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams in developing, emerging and developed regions and it covers all electrical and electronic equipment and parts discarded by consumers," says Dr Sunil Herat, Associate Editor of the journal Waste Management & Research and a Senior Lecturer in the School of Engineering at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia.
"According to figures published in the Global E-waste Monitor 2014 and compiled by the United Nations University, last year an estimated 41.8 million metric tonnes of e-waste was discarded throughout the world.
"This comprised mostly end-of-life kitchen, laundry and bathroom equipment such as microwave ovens, washing machines and dishwashers, although mobile phones, computers and printers also featured.
"That figure is estimated to rise by almost 20 per cent to 50 million metric tonnes in 2018, which is why waste management practitioners are seeking new technologies and approaches to deal with e-waste."
Dr Herat will discuss e-waste when he addresses the Sixth Regional 3R Forum in Asia and the Pacific, organised by the United Nations Centre for Regional Development and to be held in the Maldives from August 16-19.
He says that while the emphasis so far has been on end-of-life IT equipment such as computers and mobile phones, a focus on a broader spectrum of household e-waste is required if its growth is to be slowed.
A recent study commissioned by the Australia and New Zealand Recycling Platform and conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit found that Australia generates one of the highest per capita volumes of e-waste in the world. Of 19.71kg per person per year, almost 30 per cent comes from digital and audio-visual items.
The study also showed that growing incorporation of smart technology into common household items is regarded as the main cause of increases in the global e-waste streams from homes.
"This gives rise to important issues such as how we prepare for the growth in household e-wastes; whether existing take-back programs -- which currently exist in only a few countries -- are sufficient to handle new demands; and whether regulations are sufficient to ensure small household e-waste items are not mixed with residual waste contents in traditional household bins," says Dr Herat.
"Furthermore, the sheer range of household electrical and electronics items these days brings with it the use of rare earths and precious metals within circuits and chips, all of which can increase subsequent waste management challenges when items become obsolete and are discarded."
Dr Herat says there are significant benefits from expanding the coverage of e-waste products beyond the traditional computers, mobile phones and televisions. These include more efficient recycling and material recovery processes and the encouraging of private sector investment in recycling and recovery technologies.
"Crucially, e-waste policies must have a consumer focus, particularly regarding small e-waste items," he says.
"In Finland, for example, the government encourages recycling of small household e-waste items by treating them differently from large items. In Japan, consumers do not have to pay the recycling fee for small household items. In the Netherlands, a "pay-as-you-throw" system has seen a significant reduction in small household e-waste items occurring in household waste streams.
"Also, a unit-based recycling target is preferable to a weight-based target because the latter may result in greater incentive to recycle only large household items."
However, the biggest challenge facing e-waste policy makers is in developing countries.
"Most developing countries do not practise waste segregation at the source," says Dr Herat.
"This means that municipal solid waste can contain up to 3 per cent hazardous wastes, including e-waste. This can increase concentrations of heavy metals in leachate and contribute to environmental pollution.
"Governments can also struggle to collect funds from producers or imports if goods are smuggled in, or if small, shop-assembled products enjoy a large share of the market.
"A further challenge arises from systems that create incentives for collectors and recyclers to seek extra subsidies by exaggerating the amount of e-waste they collect. Competition between the formal and informal recycling sector is another impediment."
Despite such issues, Dr Herat says change is essential and inevitable.
"What is certain is that the e-waste management landscape is about to transform its traditional focus on computers and mobile phones to a broader range of more sophisticated household e-waste items," he says.
"With the exception of a few countries, most of us are about to face the reality of this latest challenge."
The above is reprinted from materials provided by Griffith University.
Top: Dr. Sunil Herat is a senior lecturer in Griffith University's School of Engineering and associate editor of Waste Management & Research. Credit: Griffith University
WESTERN NSW PARKS NAMED AS LOCATIONS FOR SPECIES RE-WILDING
Sunday, 5 July 2015: Media Release
The NSW Government has named the three parks in which locally extinct native mammals will be re-introduced inside predator-free enclosures as part of its exciting ‘re-wilding program’. Environment Minister Mark Speakman said the parks are all in western NSW and were chosen for their suitability for a range of species to be reintroduced.
“Mallee Cliffs National Park in the south-west, Sturt National Park in the far north-west and Pilliga Nature Reserve to the north of Coonabarabran will be the locations for this exciting new program,” Mr Speakman said.
As announced recently, the NSW Government is partnering with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy and the Wildlife Restoration and Management Partnership led by the University of NSW to deliver this project. The UNSW led partnership will undertake the project at Sturt National Park while the AWC will work at Mallee Cliffs National Park and Pilliga Nature Reserve.
“These parks have particularly suitable habitat for the largest range of species to be reintroduced. The final list of species for each park will be confirmed following further discussions, but among the species likely to be included are the Greater Bilby, Brush-tailed Bettong, Burrowing Bettong, Greater Stick-nest Rat, Bridled Nail-tail Wallaby, Numbat, Western Barred Bandicoot and Western Quoll,” Mr Speakman said.
Member for Barwon Kevin Humphries, in which two of the parks are located, said the reintroduction program is an exciting initiative and I know the communities around the Sturt National Park and Pilliga Nature Reserve are excited about it.
“I’m looking forward to seeing this roll-out in the parks and I think we’ll see a really good outcome which can be enjoyed by generations to come,” Mr Humphries said.”
The Mallee Cliffs National Park is located in Murrumbidgee and Local Member Adrian Piccoli said it will be wonderful to see the reintroduction of these small native animals into the Mallee Cliffs National Park where they have not been sighted in many years. “Their reintroduction not only plays a very important part in saving our native species but also towards improving the health of the ecosystem in the Mallee Cliffs National Park,” he said.
Pest animals will be removed from fenced areas before the mammals are introduced and intensive pest control programs in adjacent park areas will be a key feature. All aspects of the program, including fence locations and construction, are still being finalised through contract negotiations and will be subject to standard environmental impact assessment processes.”
This initiative will be a significant contribution to the State’s ‘Saving our Species’ program, which aims to secure the maximum number of threatened species in NSW over the next 100 years.
The oceans can’t take any more: Fundamental change in oceans predicted
July 3, 2015 - Our oceans need an immediate and substantial reduction of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. If that doesn't happen, we could see far-reaching and largely irreversible impacts on marine ecosystems, which would especially be felt in developing countries. That's the conclusion of a new review study published today in the journal Science. In the study, the research team from the Ocean 2015 initiative assesses the latest findings on the risks that climate change poses for our oceans, and demonstrates how fundamentally marine ecosystems are likely to change if human beings continue to produce just as much greenhouse gases as before.
Since the pre-industrial era, the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere has risen from 278 to 400 ppm (parts per million) -- a 40 percent increase that has produced massive changes in the oceans. "To date, the oceans have essentially been the planet's refrigerator and carbon dioxide storage locker. For instance, since the 1970s they've absorbed roughly 93 percent of the additional heat produced by the greenhouse effect, greatly helping to slow the warming of our planet," explains Prof Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-author of the new Ocean 2015 study and a researcher at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research.
But the oceans have also paid a high price: as far down as 700 metres the water temperatures have risen, which has forced some species to migrate up to 400 kilometres closer to Earth's poles within the past decade. Given the increasing acidification in many regions, it's becoming more and more difficult for corals and bivalves to form their calcium carbonate skeletons. In Greenland and the western Arctic, the ice is melting at an alarming rate, contributing to rising sea levels. As a result of these factors, the biological, physical and chemical processes at work in marine ecosystems are changing -- which will have far-reaching consequences for marine life and humans alike.
In their new study, the research team from the Ocean 2015 initiative employs two emissions scenarios (Scenario 1: Achieving the 2-degree goal / Scenario 2: Business as usual) to compile the main findings of the IPCC's 5th Assessment Report and the latest professional literature, and to assess those findings with regard to the risks for our oceans. "If we can successfully limit the rise in air temperature to two degrees Celsius through the year 2100, the risks, especially for warm-water corals and bivalves in low to middle latitudes, will become critical. However, the remaining risks will remain fairly moderate," explains lead author Jean-Pierre Gattuso. But a rapid and comprehensive reduction of carbon dioxide emissions would be needed in order to achieve this ideal option, he adds.
If instead carbon dioxide emissions remain at their current level of 36 billion tonnes per year (the 2013 level), the situation will escalate dramatically. "If we just go on with business as usual, by the end of this century the changes will hit nearly every ecosystem in the oceans and cause irreparable harm for marine life," claims Pörtner. This would in turn have massive impacts on all areas in which human beings use the oceans -- whether in capture fisheries, tourism or in coastal protection.
Further, the researchers point out that with every further increase in the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere, the available options for protecting, adapting and regenerating the oceans dwindle. As the authors summarise in the closing words of their study: "The ocean provides compelling arguments for rapid reductions in CO2 emissions and eventually atmospheric CO2 drawdown. Hence, any new global climate agreement that does not minimize the impacts on the ocean will be inadequate."
The researchers' statement above all addresses those individuals who will attend the international climate conference COP21 in Paris this December. Their study offers four key takeaway messages for the negotiators and decision-makers who will convene there:
1. The oceans greatly influence the climate system and provide important services for humans.
2. The impacts of anthropogenic climate change on key marine and coastal species can already be seen today. Many of these plant and animal species will face significant risks in the decades to come, even if we succeed in capping carbon dioxide emissions.
3. We urgently need an immediate and substantial reduction of carbon dioxide emissions in order to avoid widespread and above all irrevocable harm to ocean ecosystems and the services they provide.
4. Fourth, as atmospheric CO2 increases, the available protection, adaptation and repair options for the ocean become fewer and less effective, and with them the odds that marine life forms can successfully adapt to these rapid changes.
The Ocean 2015 initiative was launched to provide extensive information on the future of the oceans as a resource for decision-makers participating in the COP21 conference. The international research team is supported by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, the Ocean Acidification International Coordination Center of the International Atomic Energy Agency; the BNP Paribas Foundation and the Monégasque Association for Ocean Acidification.
Over the past several years, publications by researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, have greatly contributed to our current state of knowledge. One of the chief questions their efforts addresses is: "How will climate change affect ecosystems in the polar regions?."
J.-P. Gattuso, A. Magnan, R. Billé, W. W. L. Cheung, E. L. Howes, F. Joos, D. Allemand, L. Bopp, S. R. Cooley, C. M. Eakin, O. Hoegh-Guldberg, R. P. Kelly, H.-O. Pörtner, A. D. Rogers, J. M. Baxter, D. Laffoley, D. Osborn, A. Rankovic, J. Rochette, U. R. Sumaila, S. Treyer, C. Turley. Contrasting futures for ocean and society from different anthropogenic CO2 emissions scenarios. Science, 2015 DOI:10.1126/science.aac4722
NSW Govt.Office - HAVE YOUR SAY
Design of the Gas Community Benefits Fund
What is the Community Benefits Fund for Gas?
The Government has announced the establishment of the Gas Community Benefits Fund to benefit communities in which gas producers operate.
The Government doesn't have a fixed or pre–determined model (design) which it has committed to, in the development of the fund.
Seeking the view of the public and stakeholders will be critical to maximising the value of the fund for communities in NSW.
Have Your Say
NSW Trade and Investment, Resources and Energy is responsible for the establishment of the fund and has developed a discussion paper to facilitate the establishment of the Fund.
You are invited to submit your view on the Gas Community Benefits Fund in writing by 5:00pm, 17 July 2015 via email firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to:
Gas Community Benefits Fund, Strategy, Policy & Coordination,Division of Resources & Energy, Level 48, MLC Centre / 19 Martin Place, Sydney NSW 2000
Please note: in the discussion paper, questions are presented to provide feedback. The questions are a guide, and are not intended to restrict comments on any other issues that you consider relevant to the design of the Fund.
Email: Date: May. 21 - Jul. 17, 2015
Time: 9:00am — 5:00pm
More Information: email@example.com (02) 9338 6935
Snake Rock Aboriginal area draft plan
Draft plan of management for the Snake Rock Aboriginal area
What is the draft plan of management for?
The draft plan is on public exhibition until 25th September 2015, it provides members of the community with the opportunity to have a say on the future management direction/s for the Aboriginal area.
Have your say
Anyone can make a comment of the draft plan by sending a written submission by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org online at NSW Office of Environment and Heritage's website or by post to:
The Planner - NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service
PO Box 144, Sutherland NSW 1499
Date: Jun. 12 - Sep. 25, 2015: Time: 9:00am — 5:00pm
The Planner NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service PO Box 144 Sutherland NSW 1499
More Information: NSW NP&WS Planning Team (02) 6841 0921
Agency Website Consultation Website
Mesothelioma: Aspirin may delay growth of asbestos-related cancer
July 7, 2015 - Aspirin may inhibit the growth of mesothelioma, an aggressive and deadly asbestos-related cancer, University of Hawai'i Cancer Center researchers have found.
The finding could eventually give doctors and patients a potential new tool to fight against this devastating disease, which kills about 3,200 people a year nationwide, and advance knowledge of how to fight other cancers.
The study published in Cell Death and Disease showed that aspirin slows down the growth of mesothelioma by blocking the carcinogenic effects of the inflammatory molecule, High-Mobility Group Box 1 (HMGB1). Researchers believe the molecule directly promotes mesothelioma growth.
"HMGB1 is an inflammatory molecule that plays a critical role in the initiation and progression of malignant mesothelioma. Inhibiting HMGB1 dramatically reduced malignant mesothelioma growth in mice and significantly improved survival of treated animals," said Dr. Haining Yang, PhD, an associate professor in the Thoracic Oncology Program at the UH Cancer Center.
Aspirin is mostly used as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, which is absorbed by the stomach and upper intestine. Working with collaborators, Dr. Yang and Dr. Michele Carbone, MD, PhD, director of the UH Cancer Center's Thoracic Oncology Program, found that at least some of the so far unknown anti-tumor activity of aspirin is through preventing HMBG1 activity.
Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive and often deadly cancer that can result from exposure to asbestos and asbestos-like fibers such as erionite. The prolonged presence of asbestos fibers lodged in the organ lining initiates a vicious cycle of chronic cell death and chronic inflammation that, over a period of many years, can lead to mesothelioma.
The researchers theorized that people at high risk of developing mesothelioma could take aspirin as a way to prevent or delay the growth of the cancer, and thus increase their chances of survival. Such individuals would include people occupationally exposed to asbestos, or people who live in areas high in naturally occurring asbestos-like fibers. They also encourage future studies to uncover the precise mechanism by which aspirin blocks HMGB1.
H Yang, L Pellegrini, A Napolitano, C Giorgi, S Jube, A Preti, C J Jennings, F De Marchis, E G Flores, D Larson, I Pagano, M Tanji, A Powers, S Kanodia, G Gaudino, S Pastorino, H I Pass, P Pinton, M E Bianchi, M Carbone. Aspirin delays mesothelioma growth by inhibiting HMGB1-mediated tumor progression. Cell Death and Disease, 2015; 6 (6): e1786 DOI: 10.1038/cddis.2015.153
Physical disability rugby league: not just for the love of the game
6 July 2015
The University of Sydney is 'teaming up' with the NSW Physical Disability Rugby League to conduct a landmark study assessing the physical and psychological benefits for people with physical disabilities participating in team sports.
Physical disability rugby league is a novel combination of touch and tackle football designed to allow men and women with a range of physical disabilities from different age groups to participate.
Lead researcher Dr Ché Fornusek, who has also played in the league since 2012, said he's seen a definite increase in players' skills and confidence but is interested to know the impact it has on health.
"I wouldn't be surprised if we find the athletes competing in the physical disability rugby league are running almost as much as the guys in the NRL, and that's got to be good for them," said Dr Fornusek from the Faculty of Health Sciences.
"Historically there have been a lot of barriers to people with disability participating in sport, but it's vital we encourage more involvement as inactive lifestyles can really exacerbate health problems for people living with disability.
"This research will provide the evidence we need to show that team sports are not just fun and safe for people with disability, but are also having positive impacts on physical and mental health."
During the pilot study, the athletes will undergo sports performance testing similar to that used in the National Rugby League including in-game monitoring using heart-rate monitors, GPS and accelerometers. The psychological and social benefits of involvement will be accessed via questionnaires.
Dr Fornusek said the involvement of people with a disability in sport has come a long way in the last twenty years but there is still work to be done.
"We are much better at involving people with disability in mainstream sporting competitions at the younger levels, but at about fifteen years-of-age kids with disabilities start to dropout as the sport becomes more competitive.
"It's unfortunate to see that players with a disability are also often sidelined to non-crucial roles in the team.
"The NSW Physical Disability Rugby League gives both adults and children with disabilities the opportunity to learn and stay involved in a game they love."
Former Chairman and Associate Founder George Tonna said rugby league is one of the most popular sports in NSW, so kids and adults with disability want the opportunity to play the game just like their peers.
"Life is about opportunities and learning for them, and it's amazing what confidence they gain when given the opportunity to play for their club or their heritage as part of the Combined Indigenous Nations team," said Mr Tonna.
"We are really excited to be involved with the University of Sydney and look forward to this research promoting our sport."
President of Sydney University Rugby League Football Club, Chris Kintis said the University's club has long been committed to fostering an all-inclusive and collegiate sporting environment and he's keen to see the disability league become more involved.
"I think our teams can learn a lot from each other, and opportunities to train together and contribute to projects such as this are important in promoting greater participation in rugby league," he said.
Joint Training Session:
Tuesday 7 July, 6:30pm - Oval 2, University of Sydney
Players from the NSW Disability Rugby League will be training with the Sydney University Rugby League Football Club in preparation for the disability leagues' game day on Sunday 12 July when the NSW All Stars Team will take on the Combined Indigenous Nations at 10am at Redfern Oval.
Prepare for Pluto: the New Horizons fly-by
Published on 8 Jul 2015
The New Horizons space probe will pass Pluto on the 14th of July, nearly a decade after its launch. Nature Video breaks down what will happen at this brief encounter – a fly-by that will be over in a matter of hours.
For the full fly-by graphic: http://bit.ly/Pluto24
For more Pluto coverage: http://www.nature.com/pluto
Policies on children's tech exposure confusing
July 7, 2015 - New research suggests guidelines on children's exposure to radio frequency waves from technology are confusing for parents.
The review into the polices of 34 countries, carried out by Dr Mary Redmayne, from the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at Monash University, found varying degrees of advice about children's exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF).
RF-EMFs are emitted from technology including WiFi, tablets and mobile phones. Associated with an increased risk of some brain tumours in heavy and long-term phone users, RF-EMFs have also been linked to biological changes including increased production of free radicals in the body. Dr Redmayne said that whilst this, and other observed effects, were not in themselves 'health effects' if the body did not have the chance to repair the related damage and restore balance it could eventually lead to a variety of health effects.
"Where RF-EMF is responsible for this imbalance, then the chance to repair is most likely to come with periods of minimal RF-EMF exposure such as at night time, when WiFi can be turned off and devices can be put in flight mode or switched off. Such steps to minimise children's exposure are recommended in many countries including Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Israel, and Switzerland" she said.
Dr Redmayne said there was continuing concern among researchers and the public about the possible detrimental effects for young people from their exposure to RF-EMFs.
"In recent years there has been an amazingly rapid uptake in the use of mobile phones and other wireless devices. Increasingly younger children are using these devices, and we know they are more vulnerable to environmental harm than adults," she said.
"However safety regulations and guidelines in most parts of the world only consider short-term heat and shock effects, and have not traditionally considered chronic or very low exposure," Dr Redmayne said.
The review found a wide variety of different protocols and guidelines in the 34 countries. Australia's legislation is based on scientific research, but limited to acute heating effects, such as heat-damage, shocks and burns. It does not consider effects from long-term or low exposures because the science for how these occur is not understood. However, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency does suggest reducing children's exposure.
Russia and China's regulations went further by advising that exposures are low enough so that they do not prompt the body's processes to take protective action, both in the short and long term. Exposure levels in Russia and China were based on scientific research done in each respective country.
Some countries set lower, but manageable maximum exposure levels, as a precautionary approach.
The review also found some official bodies, including the European Parliament and the European Environment Agency, now recommend those aged under 18 to increase the distance of the head and body from devices including using a headset or speaker phone, use a wired landline, and sending text messages rather than calling. Several countries advised schools and pre-schools to prefer wired over WiFi/WLAN (such as Austria, France, Israel, Germany, Russia) and to offer education in schools on RF-EMF exposure issues (Russia, Tunisia, Turkey).
Dr Redmayne said the wide range of policy approaches can be confusing to parents and educational facilities wanting to know what is the best thing to do for their children.
"The message on RF-EMFs is really in the same category as health advice around diet and exercise: it's important to be aware and take steps to minimise exposure to radiofrequencies as part of daily life."
Dr Redmayne recommended using and storing a device at least 20cm away from the body, and when using devices offline then to put them in flight mode, turn WiFi off at night, and to avoid keeping devices in the bedroom.
The review was published in Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine.
Mary Redmayne. International policy and advisory response regarding children’s exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF). Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine, 2015; 1 DOI:10.3109/15368378.2015.1038832
New smartphone app warns drinkers if they go over recommended daily/weekly units
July 7, 2015 - A new smartphone app warns drinkers if they go over the recommended maximum daily/weekly units of alcohol, to help them better manage their intake, reveals a commentary published in the online journalBMJ Innovations.
The Alcohol Tracker, which has been developed by doctors and based on the clinical evidence of what works best, also provides built-in psychological therapies and helpline links for users to help steer them away from hazardous drinking.
Excess alcohol kills millions worldwide every year, but many available smartphone apps to manage drinking are not informed by clinical evidence and are largely for entertainment, say the developers of the new app. Some apps even seem to promote rather than curb drinking, they add.
The Alcohol Tracker enables users to log the number of beers/shots/glasses of wine they have knocked back on a given day which it then tots up for them in units. When the recommended daily or weekly limits have been exceeded, the app issues a warning.
The limits are defined by the recommended safe intake for men and women, stipulated by national guidance in the UK (NICE) and Canada.
The Alcohol Tracker also provides links to alcohol helplines and built-in psychological therapies, such as a behavioural goals aid. A validated questionnaire enables users to find out if their drinking puts them at risk.
Find out more about how the app works here
Melvyn W Zhang, Roger C Ho. The alcohol self-management smartphone application: an evidence-based approach. BMJ Innovations, 2015; bmjinnov-2015-000057 DOI: 10.1136/bmjinnov-2015-000057
Using sonar to navigate: Bats do it, dolphins do it, and now humans can do it, too
July 7, 2015 - University of California, Berkeley, physicists have used graphene to build lightweight ultrasonic loudspeakers and microphones, enabling people to mimic bats or dolphins' ability to use sound to communicate and gauge the distance and speed of objects around them.
More practically, the wireless ultrasound devices complement standard radio transmission using electromagnetic waves in areas where radio is impractical, such as underwater, but with far more fidelity than current ultrasound or sonar devices. They can also be used to communicate through objects, such as steel, that electromagnetic waves can't penetrate.
"Sea mammals and bats use high-frequency sound for echolocation and communication, but humans just haven't fully exploited that before, in my opinion, because the technology has not been there," said UC Berkeley physicist Alex Zettl. "Until now, we have not had good wideband ultrasound transmitters or receivers. These new devices are a technology opportunity."
Speakers and microphones both use diaphragms, typically made of paper or plastic, that vibrate to produce or detect sound, respectively. The diaphragms in the new devices are graphene sheets a mere one atom thick that have the right combination of stiffness, strength and light weight to respond to frequencies ranging from subsonic (below 20 hertz) to ultrasonic (above 20 kilohertz). Humans can hear from 20 hertz up to 20,000 hertz, whereas bats hear only in the kilohertz range, from 9 to 200 kilohertz. The grapheme loudspeakers and microphones operate from well below 20 hertz to over 500 kilohertz.
Graphene consists of carbon atoms laid out in a hexagonal, chicken-wire arrangement, which creates a tough, lightweight sheet with unique electronic properties that have excited the physics world for the past 20 or more years.
"There's a lot of talk about using graphene in electronics and small nanoscale devices, but they're all a ways away," said Zettl, who is a senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a member of the Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute, operated jointly by UC Berkeley and Berkeley Lab. "The microphone and loudspeaker are some of the closest devices to commercial viability, because we've worked out how to make the graphene and mount it, and it's easy to scale up."
Zettl, UC Berkeley postdoctoral fellow Qin Zhou and colleagues describe their graphene microphone and ultrasonic radio in a paper appearing online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Radios and rangefinders
Two years ago, Zhou built loudspeakers using a sheet of graphene for the diaphragm, and since then has been developing the electronic circuitry to build a microphone with a similar graphene diaphragm.
One big advantage of graphene is that the atom-thick sheet is so lightweight that it responds well to the different frequencies of an electronic pulse, unlike today's piezoelectric microphones and speakers. This comes in handy when using ultrasonic transmitters and receivers to transmit large amounts of information through many different frequency channels simultaneously, or to measure distance, as in sonar applications.
"Because our membrane is so light, it has an extremely wide frequency response and is able to generate sharp pulses and measure distance much more accurately than traditional methods," Zhou said.
Graphene membranes are also more efficient, converting over 99 percent of the energy driving the device into sound, whereas today's conventional loudspeakers and headphones convert only 8 percent into sound. Zettl anticipates that in the future, communications devices like cellphones will utilize not only electromagnetic waves -- radio -- but also acoustic or ultrasonic sound, which can be highly directional and long-range.
"Graphene is a magical material; it hits all the sweet spots for a communications device," he said.
When Zhou told his wife, Jinglin Zheng, about the ultrasound microphone, she suggested he try to capture the sound of bats chirping at frequencies too high for humans to hear. So they hauled the microphone to a park in Livermore and turned it on. When they slowed down the recording to one-tenth normal speed, converting the high frequencies to an audio range humans can hear, they were amazed at the quality and fidelity of the bat vocalizations.
"This is lightweight enough to mount on a bat and record what the bat can hear," Zhou said.
Bat expert Michael Yartsev, a newly hired UC Berkeley assistant professor of bioengineering and member of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, said, "These new microphones will be incredibly valuable for studying auditory signals at high frequencies, such as the ones used by bats. The use of graphene allows the authors to obtain very flat frequency responses in a wide range of frequencies, including ultrasound, and will permit a detailed study of the auditory pulses that are used by bats."
Zettl noted that audiophiles would also appreciate the graphene loudspeakers and headphones, which have a flat response across the entire audible frequency range.
"A number of years ago, this device would have been darn near impossible to build because of the difficulty of making free-standing graphene sheets," Zettl said. "But over the past decade the graphene community has come together to develop techniques to grow, transport and mount graphene, so building a device like this is now very straightforward; the design is simple."
Qin Zhou, Jinglin Zheng, Seita Onishi, M. F. Crommie, Alex K. Zettl.Graphene electrostatic microphone and ultrasonic radio.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2015; 201505800 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1505800112
Blood test could identify diabetes decades before it develops
July 8, 2015 - Scientists at the MRC's Clinical Sciences Centre (CSC) in West London are the first to show that a small molecule circulates in the blood of people who are in the early stages of type 1 diabetes. A simple blood test could detect this biological marker years, maybe decades, before symptoms develop.
"If we can identify and treat patients earlier, we may be able to help them to avoid secondary complications. This could ultimately extend a patient's life," said Mathieu Latreille, who leads the CSC's Cellular Identity and Metabolism research group, and who carried out the research in collaboration with scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Latreille presented the results to doctors at Hammersmith Hospital this month.
Doctors currently diagnose type 1 diabetes when patients present with symptoms, such as thirst, weight loss and blurred vision. But the damage begins years earlier when the immune system makes a mistake, and wrongly identifies cells within the pancreas as pathogens. It attacks and destroys the cells, causing the pancreas to lose its ability to produce a hormone, called insulin, which controls the levels of sugar in the blood. Patients can manage their sugar levels with injections of insulin, but may still be at risk of developing complications including blindness, kidney failure and heart disease.
Recent studies have suggested that small messenger molecules, called microRNAs, could help doctors to diagnose the early stages of the condition. MicroRNAs carry snippets of genetic information across cells, and are regularly released into the blood stream. In diabetes, the levels of some of these microRNAs in the circulation changes, and a simple blood test could detect this.
But for a blood test to be useful, it must detect a change that is specific to diabetes. Latreille says, "MicroRNAs can be released from any tissue -- the eye, kidney or leg -- but these will not tell us anything about the health of the pancreas."
Until now, scientists have been unable to identify a microRNA that is linked to the pancreas. But Latreille and team have shown that a particular molecule, called microRNA 375, is released by the very cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. These cells normally contain lots of microRNA 375, which helps to control cell growth. In type 1 diabetes it is released into the bloodstream in large quantities as soon as the cells begin to die. Latreille says that this makes it a useful marker that may allow doctors to diagnose and treat early stage diabetes.
The next step will be to see if the researchers can use the marker reliably to predict who will develop diabetes years before it begins, and to understand at what stage treatment might be appropriate.
Mathieu Latreille, Karolin Herrmanns, Neil Renwick, Thomas Tuschl, Maciej T. Malecki, Mark I. McCarthy, Katharine R. Owen, Thomas Rülicke, Markus Stoffel. miR-375 gene dosage in pancreatic β-cells: implications for regulation of β-cell mass and biomarker development. Journal of Molecular Medicine, 2015; DOI:10.1007/s00109-015-1296-9
Crowd-sourced computing reveals how to make better water filters with nanotubes
Nanotube inflitration in action
7 July 2015 - Crowd-sourced computing has helped an international research team - including researchers from the University of Sydney - discover a new method of improving water filtration systems and water quality.
The team enlisted more than 150,000 computer volunteers worldwide to conduct the research.
Together they created a network which was able to simulate water flow in carbon nanotubes at very low speeds - an activity that would normally require the equivalent of up to 40,000 years of processing power on a single computer.
The team's discovery has been published this week in the internationally acclaimed journal Nature Nanotechnology.
The research was led by the Center for Nano and Micro Mechanics (CNMM) at Tsinghua University in Beijing, with international partners including researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia.
"Prior to our project, simulations of water flow in carbon nanotubes could only be carried out under unrealistically high flow-rate conditions", says the Director of CNMM, Quanshui Zheng.
"Thanks to World Community Grid, the Computing for Clean Water project was able to expand these simulations to probe flow rates of just a few centimeters per second - characteristic of the working conditions of real nanotube-based filters," the Director said.
The paper's lead author Ming Ma, a PhD from Tsinghua University, was also a visiting scholar at the University of Sydney working with nanotechnology expert Associate Professor Luming Shen on the research. The pair commenced their work together as members of the Computing for Clean Water project five years ago.
"Computing for Clean Water, was carried out with the support of 150,000 volunteers worldwide, who contributed their own computing power to the research," says co-author Associate Professor Shen.
"The volunteers downloaded and ran the project on their computers. The project's results have important implications for desalination and energy conversion using salinity gradients. They can shed new light on the fundamental processes occurring in the nanoscale biological pores that funnel essential ingredients into cells.
"We also developed some key data processing methods which will become essential to analyze the massive data generated by the volunteered computers.
"By simulating water molecules flowing through nanotubes we have shown how vibrations result in oscillating friction, leading to enhancements in the rate of water diffusion of more than 300 percent. Ultimately this will help design new carbon nanotube based membranes for water filtration with reduced energy consumption.
"Crowd-sourced computing power was essential to the success of our project. I believe that crowd-sourced computing will enable more important scientific advances in cancer treatment and clean energy, for example in the future," he said.
Associate Professor Shen explains the ongoing research. "We plan to explicitly include the effects of defects in carbon nanotubes, to use alternative methods to apply a pressure drop and to investigate other nanofluidic systems such as boron nitride nanotubes and biological channels."
Go green, go driverless!
Published on 6 Jul 2015
Would you get in a driverless car? Engineers think they could be safer and more efficient, but in this Nature Video we find out how they could be greener too. Great excuse to play with Lego!
Read the paper in Nature Climate Change:
WE'VE REVEALED A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY....
July 6, 2015 - Scientists have revealed a galaxy five billion light-years away, using a new hi-tech telescope in remote Western Australia. The discovery will be announced today at the UK's National Astronomy Meeting.
The galaxy was uncovered in radio emission travelling to Earth using CSIRO's Australian SKA Pathfinder telescope (ASKAP), located at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO).
CSIRO's Dr James Allison led a research team using ASKAP and the MRO's unique radio quietness, to crack open a window to a little-explored period of the Universe's history.
The team used a special technique to detect a change in radio waves coming from within the bright centre of the galaxy PKS B1740-517, located near the Ara constellation.
The five-billion-year-old radio emission was stamped with the 'imprint' of hydrogen gas it had travelled through on its way to Earth.
The gas absorbs some of the emission, creating a tiny dip in the signal. "At many observatories, this dip would have been hidden by background radio noise, but our site is so radio quiet it stood out clearly," Dr Allison said.
Dr Allison, pictured left, is an affiliate of the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO), which is led by Professor Elaine Sadler of the University of Sydney.
Both researchers are part of a team that will use the absorption technique with ASKAP to find hundreds of galaxies that are up to ten billion light years away and determine how much hydrogen gas they contain.
This will help astronomers understand why star formation, which is fuelled by hydrogen gas, has dropped off in the Universe since its peak 10 billion years ago.
At the UK meeting Dr Allison will also talk about ASKAP's studies of pulsars (small stars that emit pulsed radio signals) and giant starless clouds of hydrogen gas.
"These latest research findings are demonstrating that ASKAP can do what other telescopes can't," Dr Allison said.
CAASTRO is a collaboration between Curtin University, The University of Western Australia, the University of Sydney, the Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, Swinburne University of Technology and the University of Queensland. It is funded under the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence program and receives additional funding from the seven participating universities and the NSW State Government Science Leveraging Fund.
Top: CSIRO’s newest radio telescope, the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP).
Tsunamis: Catastrophic Science
Published on 5 Jul 2015 by UNSWTV
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When scientists James Goff and Catherine Chague-Goff studied the effects of the 2011 Japan tsunami, they made a discovery that will save lives in future disasters. And it all came down to a handful of soil. Enjoy this first episode of Catastrophic Science, the series that uncovers the life-saving work that has resulted from natural and man-made disasters.
UNSWTV is the official channel of UNSW Australia (the University of New South Wales), a research and teaching powerhouse known for its practical and positive impact on the world.
Drinking alcohol while pregnant is common in UK, Ireland, and Australasia
Evident across all social strata but expectant moms significantly more likely to drink if they smoke
July 7, 2015 - Drinking alcohol while pregnant is common, ranging from 20% to 80% among those questioned in the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, reveals a study of almost 18,000 women published in the online journal BMJ Open.
Women across all social strata drank during pregnancy, the findings showed. But expectant mums were significantly more likely to be drinkers if they were also smokers.
The researchers base their findings on an analysis of data from three studies: The Growing up in Ireland (GUI) study; the Screening for Pregnancy Endpoints (SCOPE) study; and the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS).
The studies variously assessed the amount and type of alcohol drunk before and during pregnancy and involved 17,244 women who delivered live babies in the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.
The researchers mined the content to gauge the prevalence of, and the factors associated with, drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
Their analysis indicated a high prevalence of drinking, including binge drinking, among mums to be. The prevalence of drinking alcohol ranged from 20% to 80% in Ireland, and from 40% to 80% in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.
Ireland emerged as the country with the highest rates of drinking, both before (90%) and during (82%) pregnancy, and of binge drinking, before (59%) and during (45%) pregnancy, based on estimates from the SCOPE study. But the exact prevalence could be far lower than that as estimates of drinking during pregnancy from the PRAMS and GUI studies were substantially lower (20-46%), with only 3% of women reporting binge drinking in PRAMS, caution the researchers.
The amount of alcohol drunk varied across the three studies. Between 15% and 70% of the women said that they had drunk 1-2 units a week during the first three months (trimester) of their pregnancy. But the number of reported units dropped substantially in all countries between the first and second trimester, as did binge drinking.
The findings indicated that the prevalence of drinking while pregnant was generally evident across all social strata, but several factors were associated with a heightened or lowered risk of alcohol consumption.
Compared with white women, those of other ethnicities were less likely to drink alcohol while pregnant, while younger women (30-39) were also less likely to do so than older women.
A higher level of education, having other children, and being overweight/obese were also associated with a lower risk of drinking while pregnant.
But the strongest and most consistent predictor of a heightened risk of drinking alcohol during pregnancy across all three studies was smoking. Smokers were 17-50% more likely to drink while pregnant.
The researchers point out that most clinical and government guidelines advise women to stop drinking during pregnancy.
But they write: "Alcohol use during pregnancy is highly prevalent, and evidence from this cross-cohort and cross-country comparison shows that gestational alcohol exposure may occur in over 75% of pregnancies in the UK and Ireland."
However, most of these women consumed alcohol at very low levels and the number of pregnant women who drank heavily in the three studies was small, they say.Nevertheless, given that the risks of light drinking are not fully known, the most sensible option is not to drink alcohol during pregnancy, they add.
"Since most women who consume alcohol do so at lower levels where the offspring growth and development effects are less well understood [than at higher levels], the widespread consumption of even low levels of alcohol during pregnancy is a significant public health concern," they conclude.
Louise C Kenny et al. Prevalence and predictors of alcohol use during pregnancy: findings from international multicentre cohort studies. BMJ Open, July 2015 DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-006323
Memory, thinking ability keep getting worse for years after a stroke, new study finds
July 7, 2015 - A stroke happens in an instant. And many who survive one report that their brain never works like it once did. But new research shows that these problems with memory and thinking ability keep getting worse for years afterward -- and happen faster than normal brain aging.
Stroke survivors also had a faster rate of developing cognitive impairment over the years after stroke compared to their pre-stroke rate. The study results are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association this week.
"We found that stroke is associated with cognitive decline over the long-term," says lead author Deborah A. Levine, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of Michigan Medical School and VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System. "That is, survivors had accelerated and persistent declines in memory and thinking ability during the years after stroke -- even after accounting for their cognitive changes before and early after the event."
Levine and her U-M colleagues used data from 23,572 Americans aged 45 years or older from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study led by the University of Alabama at Birmingham and funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Participants had no history of cognitive impairment when they entered the large population-based study in the mid-2000s. They had tests of their memory and thinking ability at the beginning of the study and at regular intervals during follow-up. They were monitored twice per year for acute stroke events; suspected strokes were confirmed by study physicians using medical records.
Over the next six to 10 years, 515 of them had a stroke, and researchers compared their test results with those from the 23,057 who remained stroke-free.
Because they had information on how stroke survivors' memory and thinking ability changed over time before the stroke, Levine and her colleagues could separate the declines in brain function associated with aging from declines in brain function associated with stroke.
In their study, stroke was associated with declines in global cognition, new learning, and verbal memory early after stroke as well as accelerated and persistent declines in global cognition and thinking ability over the years after the event.
"Stroke is common, costly, and disabling, and cognitive decline is a major cause of disability in stroke survivors," says Levine, who holds faculty appointments in internal medicine and neurology at U-M. "Yet cognitive decline after stroke has not received enough attention. We hope these findings will shine a spotlight on stroke survivors' long-term cognitive needs."
The findings suggest a need for better long-term follow-up care for the nation's 7 million stroke survivors, including therapy to retain or even regain cognitive ability.
"Our results suggest that stroke survivors warrant monitoring for mounting cognitive impairment over the years after the event," says Levine. "Health systems and payers will need to develop cost-effective systems of care that will best manage the long-term needs and cognitive problems of this growing and vulnerable stroke survivor population."
Levine and her colleagues also suggest that their results mean long-term cognitive ability could be a new marker for measuring the effects of therapies to treat the initial effects of stroke.
Levine and her colleagues note that research is needed to determine whether the acute and also accelerated long-term cognitive declines after stroke are the result of incomplete rehabilitation from the initial stroke, subsequent brain injury due to uncontrolled risk factors, behavioral changes, or other mechanisms.
Deborah A. Levine, Andrzej T. Galecki, Kenneth M. Langa, Frederick W. Unverzagt, Mohammed U. Kabeto, Bruno Giordani, Virginia G. Wadley.Trajectory of Cognitive Decline After Incident Stroke. JAMA, 2015; 314 (1): 41 DOI: 10.1001/jama.2015.6968
Association between genetic condition, hormonal factors, and risk of endometrial cancer
July 7, 2015 - For women with Lynch syndrome, an association was found between the risk of endometrial cancer and the age of first menstrual cycle, having given birth, and hormonal contraceptive use, according to a study in the July 7 issue of JAMA. Lynch syndrome is a genetic condition that increases the risk for various cancers.
Endometrial cancer is the most common type of gynecologic cancer in developed countries. Between 2 percent and 5 percent of all endometrial cancer cases are associated with a hereditary susceptibility to cancer, mainly Lynch syndrome, which is caused by a germline mutation in one of the DNA mismatch repair (MMR) genes. Depending on the mutated gene, cumulative risk of developing endometrial cancer by age 70 years for women is thought to be between 15 percent and 30 percent. Apart from hysterectomy, there is no consensus recommendation for reducing endometrial cancer risk for women with an MMR gene mutation. Studies in the general population have shown that hormonal factors are associated with endometrial cancer risk, according to background information in the article.
For Lynch syndrome, the association between hormonal factors and endometrial cancer risk has not been clear. Aung Ko Win, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., M.P.H., of the University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, and colleagues conducted a study that included 1,128 women with an MMR gene mutation identified from the Colon Cancer Family Registry. Participants were recruited between 1997 and 2012 from centers across the United States, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.
Endometrial cancer was diagnosed in 133 women. The researchers found that later age at menarche (first menstrual cycle, age 13 or older), parity (has had one or more live births), and hormonal contraceptive use (for one year or longer) were associated with a lower risk of endometrial cancer. There was no statistically significant association between endometrial cancer and age at first and last live birth, age at menopause, and postmenopausal hormone use.
"In this study, an inverse association was observed between the risk of endometrial cancer for women with an MMR gene mutation and later age of menarche, increased parity, and use of hormonal contraceptives. The directions of the observed associations are similar to those that have been reported for the general population, suggesting a possible protective effect of these factors," the authors write.
"If replicated, these findings suggest that women with an MMR gene mutation may be counseled like the general population in regard to hormonal influences on endometrial cancer risk."
Seyedeh Ghazaleh Dashti, Rowena Chau, Driss Ait Ouakrim, Daniel D. Buchanan, Mark Clendenning, Joanne P. Young, Ingrid M. Winship, Julie Arnold, Dennis J. Ahnen, Robert W. Haile, Graham Casey, Steven Gallinger, Stephen N. Thibodeau, Noralane M. Lindor, Loïc Le Marchand, Polly A. Newcomb, John D. Potter, John A. Baron, John L. Hopper, Mark A. Jenkins, Aung Ko Win. Female Hormonal Factors and the Risk of Endometrial Cancer in Lynch Syndrome. JAMA, 2015; 314 (1): 61 DOI: 10.1001/jama.2015.6789
Fundamental beliefs about atherosclerosis overturned: Complications of artery-hardening condition are number one killer worldwide
July 6, 2015 - Doctors' efforts to battle the dangerous atherosclerotic plaques that build up in our arteries and cause heart attacks and strokes are built on several false beliefs about the fundamental composition and formation of the plaques, new research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine shows. These new discoveries will force researchers to reassess their approaches to developing treatments and discard some of their basic assumptions about atherosclerosis, commonly known as hardening of the arteries.
"The leading cause of death worldwide is complications of atherosclerosis, and the most common end-stage disease is when an atherosclerotic plaque ruptures. If this occurs in one of your large coronary arteries, it's a catastrophic event," said Gary K. Owens, PhD, of UVA's Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center. "Once a plaque ruptures, it can induce formation of a large clot that can block blood flow to the downstream regions. This is what causes most heart attacks. The clot can also dislodge and cause a stroke if it lodges in a blood vessel in the brain. As such, understanding what controls the stability of plaques is extremely important. "
Until now, doctors have believed that smooth muscle cells -- the cells that help blood vessels contract and dilate -- were the good guys in the body's battle against atherosclerotic plaque. They were thought to migrate from their normal location in the blood vessel wall into the developing atherosclerotic plaque, where they would attempt to wall off the accumulating fats, dying cells and other nasty components of the plaque. The dogma has been that the more smooth muscle cells in that wall -- particularly in the innermost layer referred to as the "fibrous cap" -- the more stable the plaque is and the less danger it poses.
UVA's research reveals those notions are woefully incomplete at best. Scientists have grossly misjudged the number of smooth muscle cells inside the plaques, the work shows, suggesting the cells are not just involved in forming a barrier so much as contributing to the plaque itself. "We suspected there was a small number of smooth muscle cells we were failing to identify using the typical immunostaining detection methods. It wasn't a small number. It was 82 percent," Owens said. "Eighty-two percent of the smooth muscle cells within advanced atherosclerotic lesions cannot be identified using the typical methodology since the lesion cells down-regulate smooth muscle cell markers. As such, we have grossly underestimated how many smooth muscle cells are in the lesion."
Suddenly, the role of smooth muscle cells is much more complex, much less black-and-white. Are they good or bad? Should treatments try to encourage more? It's no longer that simple, and the problem is made all the more complicated by the fact that some smooth muscle cells were being misidentified as immune cells called macrophages, while some macrophage-derived cells were masquerading as smooth muscle cells. It's very confusing, even for scientists, and it has led to what Owens called "complete ambiguity as to which cell is which within the lesion." (The research also shows other subsets of smooth muscle cells were transitioning to cells resembling stem cells and myofibroblasts.)
Researcher Laura S. Shankman, a PhD student in the Owens lab, was able to overcome the limitations of the traditional methodology for detecting smooth muscle cells in the plaque. Her approach was to genetically tag smooth muscle cells early in their development, so she could follow them and their descendants even if they changed their stripes. "This allowed us to mark smooth muscle cells when we were confident that they were actually smooth muscle cells," she said. "Then we let the atherosclerosis develop and progress [in mice] in order to see where those cells were later in disease."
Further, Shankman identified a key gene, Klf4, that appears to regulate these transitions of smooth muscle cells. Remarkably, when she genetically knocked out Klf4 selectively in smooth muscle cells, the atherosclerotic plaques shrank dramatically and exhibited features indicating they were more stable -- the ideal therapeutic goal for treating the disease in people. Of major interest, loss of Klf4 in smooth muscle cells did not reduce the number of these cells in lesions but resulted in them undergoing transitions in their functional properties that appear to be beneficial in disease pathogenesis. That is, it switched them from being "bad" guys to "good" guys.
Taken together, Shankman's findings raise many critical questions about previous studies built on techniques that failed to assess the composition of the lesions accurately. Moreover, her studies are the first to indicate that therapies targeted at controlling the properties of smooth muscle cells within lesions may be highly effective in treating a disease that is the leading cause of death worldwide.
The discoveries have been outlined in a paper published online by the journal Nature Medicine.
Laura S Shankman, Delphine Gomez, Olga A Cherepanova, Morgan Salmon, Gabriel F Alencar, Ryan M Haskins, Pamela Swiatlowska, Alexandra A C Newman, Elizabeth S Greene, Adam C Straub, Brant Isakson, Gwendalyn J Randolph, Gary K Owens. KLF4-dependent phenotypic modulation of smooth muscle cells has a key role in atherosclerotic plaque pathogenesis. Nature Medicine, 2015; 21 (6): 628 DOI: 10.1038/nm.3866
Activated T cell therapy for advanced melanoma developed
July 7, 2015 - T cells from patients with melanoma can trigger a protective immune response against the disease according to a new study out of University Hospitals Case Medical Center Seidman Cancer Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
Published in the July/August issue of Journal of Immunotherapy, these new findings demonstrate that T cells derived from lymph nodes of patients with melanoma can be expanded in number and activated in the laboratory for intravenous administration in the treatment of patients. Led by Julian Kim, MD, Chief Medical Officer at UH Seidman Cancer Center, the research team has developed a novel technique to generate large numbers of activated T cells which can be transferred back into the same patient to stimulate the immune system to attack the cancer.
"This study is unique in that the source of T cells for therapy is derived from the lymph node, which is the natural site of the immune response against pathogens as well as cancer," says Dr. Kim who is also Professor of Surgery at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and the Charles Hubay Chair at UH Case Medical Center. "These encouraging results provide the rationale to start testing the transfer of activated T cells in a human clinical trial."
In his research laboratory at the School of Medicine, Dr. Kim and his team developed a new method to grow and activate immune cells in a two-week culture. Immune cells are extracted from lymph nodes which have been exposed to growing melanoma in the patient's body. Rather than trying to activate the T cells while in the body, the lymph nodes are surgically removed so that the activation process and growth of the T cells can be tightly regulated in a laboratory. This novel approach to cancer treatment, termed adoptive immunotherapy, is only offered at a few institutions worldwide.
These promising findings have led to the recent launch of a new Phase I human clinical trial at UH Seidman Cancer Center in patients with advanced melanoma. The research leading to the clinical trial was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. The new Phase I clinical trial is being supported by University Hospitals as well as a significant philanthropic effort including the Immunogene Therapy Fund, Paula and Ronald Raymond Fund and the Kathryn and Paula Miller Family Fund.
"The infusion of activated T cells has demonstrated promising results and is an area of great potential for the treatment of patients with cancer," said Dr. Kim. "We are really excited that our method of activating and expanding T cells is practical and may be ideal for widespread use. Our goal is to eventually combine these T cells with other immune therapies which will result in cures. These types of clinical trials place the UH Seidman Cancer Center at the forefront of immune therapy of cancer."
Additionally, the research team has been researching the possibility of using lymph nodes from patients with pancreatic cancer to develop T cell therapy. Their goal is to expand the program and eventually study other tumor types including lung, colorectal and breast cancers.
Mei Zhang, Hallie Graor, Anthony Visioni, Madeleine Strohl, Lu Yan, Kevin Caja, Julian A. Kim. T Cells Derived From Human Melanoma Draining Lymph Nodes Mediate Melanoma-specific Antitumor Responses In Vitro and In Vivo in Human Melanoma Xenograft Model. Journal of Immunotherapy, 2015; 38 (6): 229 DOI:10.1097/CJI.000000000000007
Bouddi Peninsula: A Time Tour, Complete Film
Published on 20 Jun 2012
A film of local history produced by David and Helen Dufty assisted by a Gosford City Council Cultural Grant (2010)
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