Home' Southern Health News : Southern Health News - April 2015 Contents Flinders University was recently awarded an $860,000
Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities
(LIEF) grant from the Australian Research Council to
set up the facility, which will be shared by Adelaide
University and the University of South Australia.
The facility will be based around a robot, which has
the capacity to pipette liquids into tens of thousands
of cell cultures in short periods of time, as well as
take high resolution images of cells which will show
any changes as a result of chemicals that have been
FCIC Medical Scientist Dr Michael Michael said
researchers were currently limited in their ability to
undertake large-scale experiments, which require
between 30,000 and 100,000 wells (about 260
“We currently don’t have the capacity to do big
experiments – our researchers have had to go to
Victoria to do this research at the Peter MacCallum
Cancer Centre in the past,” Dr Michael said.
“When this facility is set up we’ll be able to identify
drugs for a range of diseases, including cancer,
and study how cells grow and respond to different
“It is now possible to individually knock out every
gene in the genome of our cells, to see what effect
that has on their behaviour, and to see if it might
change their response to different drugs.
“We’ll be able to identify subtle changes in cells,
like changes in cell shape – as well as gross changes,
such as if they are dying or not – and quantify these
responses using advanced software.”
Dr Michael said the new facility would be a “toolkit”
for all South Australian biological research.
“Some of the early research waiting to be undertaken
in the new facility is around how cancer cells
generate their energy and how bowel cancer cells
respond to different components in our diet.
“Interest has been shown from many other groups,
including those involved in leukaemia research at
the South Australian Health and Medical Research
Institute (SAHMRI) and reproductive biology at The
University of Adelaide.”
Dr Michael said he was also excited about making the
facility available for botanical research, which would
be unique in an Australian academic environment.
Major medical breakthroughs
on the horizon for researchers
BY SARAH KOLAR
Flinders researchers aim to make major medical breakthroughs when the Flinders
Centre for Innovation in Cancer (FCIC) becomes home to South Australia’s only High
Throughput Screening Facility later this year.
Mission to find
Achilles' heel of
BY JANE TREMBATH
A $200,000 grant from the
Flinders Medical Centre (FMC)
Foundation will help researchers
in their quest to uncover an
Achilles’ heel of cancer.
Dr Michael Michael, together
with post-doctoral researcher Dr
Karen Humphreys, will use the
Established Research Grant from
the Foundation’s Tour de Cure
towards their project on metabolic
change in colorectal cancer cells.
The work will study the role of
microRNAs (molecules that regulate
gene expression and influence
many disease processes) in energy
production in colon cancer cells
by undertaking an unbiased
screen to identify all the human
microRNAs that can influence
altered metabolism – a hallmark of
“We hope that this will uncover an
Achilles’ heel in tumours that can
be exploited to develop new anti-
cancer strategies,” Dr Michael said.
The study follows recent findings
that specific microRNAs are
responsible for the way that dietary
butyrate kills off bowel cancer cells,
but not normal colon cells. Dietary
butyrate is naturally produced by
bacteria in the gut, through the
fermentation of dietary fibre, and is
thought to contribute to the anti-
cancer effect of high-fibre diets.
“Other studies have shown
that the specific killing effect of
butyrate on cancer cells relates to
the fact that they produce energy
differently to normal cells, which
has lead us to wonder whether the
cancer-associated microRNAs that
we have been studying might also
control energy production in those
cells,” Dr Michael said.
Flinders Centre for
Innovation in Cancer Medical
Scientist Dr Michael Michael
has led the charge to get the
High Throughput Screening
Facility at Flinders.
10 / APRIL 2015 / SOUTHERN HEALTH NEWS
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