Jamie and Erica join Jon Faine on The Conversation Hour

Word nerd David Astle is Jon Faine’s co-host.  He is a cruciverbalist, author, columnist, and star of the inexplicably discontinued Letters and Numbers (SBS TV). His books include WordburgerRiddledomCluetopiaPuzzled, and most recently David Astle’s Gargantuan Book of Words Puzzles, games and stories for wordy whiz-kids! David will be presenting Evenings, ABC Radio Melbourne & Victoria for a couple of weeks from next Wednesday. He is also host of the 2018 Albury-Wodonga Winter Solstice for Survivors of Suicide and Friends featuring poet Les Murray, actor Samuel Johnson, and NRL footballer Ian Roberts at QEII Square, Albury on Thursday 21st June from 5:00pm.

Their first guest is Psychoanalyst and Organisational Consultant, Phil Stokoe. He is a Training Analyst with the British Psychotherapy Foundation, and was the Clinical Director at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust in London. Phil is in Melbourne for the 2018 Freud Conference: populism and the attack on knowledge elites – psychoanalytic and political science perspectives at The Melbourne Brain Centre, Kenneth Myer Building, 30 Royal Parade, Parkville tomorrow (Saturday 26th May 2018) 8:30am to 6:00pm.

Then they are joined by immunologist Prof Jamie Rossjohn and artist Dr Erica Tandori.

Jamie is Head of the Infection and Immunity Program at Monash University, an ARC Laureate Fellow, and Professor of Structural Immunology at the School of Medicine, Cardiff University, UK. He is the 2018 Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) Lemberg Medal recipient.

Erica Tandori is Artist in Residence for the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute’s Sensory Scientific Exhibition and Discovery Day on Thursday 31 May2018, 8.45am – 1pm (G54, Learning and Teaching Building, 19 Ancora Imparo Way, Monash University, Clayton). She is legally blind and has been making tactile models of various molecules to make understanding of their form possible for those who can’t see them through a microscope.

Original article 

Listen to interview (skip to 29mins for Jamie and Erica).

Bringing the magic of biomedical research to the low vision community

Outreach programs at universities often involve displays, exhibitions, lectures and other forms of public engagement.  Researchers within the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) are developing an innovative program targeted at those who have low vision or are blind, by hosting a Sensory Scientific Exhibition and Discovery Day at Monash University Clayton on Thursday 31 May, 2018. Complete with tactile 3D models, 2D graphic displays, olfactory displays, large print and braille formats, the event will be specifically geared to a low vision/blind audience.

Professor Jamie Rossjohn, Head of the Infection and Immunity Program at the Monash BDI and ARC Australian Laureate Fellow and Investigator within the ARC Centre of Excellence in Advanced Molecular Imaging, considered it was important to hold an event that would engage the blind and low vision community with biomedical research. A conversation with his administrative assistant, Ms Sabrina Constantin, who has low vision, reinforced Professor Rossjohn’s desire to hold such an event.

“Just imagine how great it would be for kids with vision impairment to be inspired and be given the chance to follow a career path in science,” Ms Constantin said.

Professor Rossjohn recruited an artist in residence, who is legally blind, to produce art that could explain infection and immunity to the blind and those with low vision and provide expert advice for the activities for the exhibition.

The artist, Dr Erica Tandori, has a PhD in visual art and ophthalmology, where she used art to articulate the processes of her own vision loss caused by juvenile macular degeneration.

In collaboration with researchers at the Monash BDI, Dr Tandori is producing tactile art and models that detail aspects of vaccination, the evolution of flu viruses, and the process of how our bodies recognise pathogens.

Exhibition visitors will have access to 3D models of viruses, different immune molecules and antibodies as well 3D model displays of parts of the human body. Participants will also be able to experience Monash University’s CAVE2 facility which is a 360 degree immersive experience that will have immune molecules projected onto enormous surround-screens.

“The exhibition includes soft toys of bacteria and antibodies, so that people can experience different textures,“ said Dr Gabby Watson, who is coordinating the day.

“All of the models will be accompanied by descriptions in both large text and braille. One of our small group activities will involve smelling different microbes – we are trying to engage as many of the senses as possible! We are encouraging everyone to attend, as we have activities that will appeal to all,” Dr Watson said.

When: 8.45am – 1pm, Thursday 31 May
Where: G54, 19 Ancora Imparo Way, Monash University, Clayton (accessibility and parking information can be found on the event flyer, click to download)
Register: Click here 

Original article

The Age reporter, Liam meets Jamie, Sabrina and Erica

Science relies on light. What about people who can’t see?

Working out how to harness light has brought extraordinary advances.

Microscopes can now see the innards of a cell. Space-based telescopes can see millions of years back in time. The pictures they beam back to Earth are beautiful.

To those with limited vision, this beauty is ungraspable. They are often isolated from the wonders of science – and from the rest of the community.

“It’s enormously frustrating, oh my god,” says artist Dr Erica Tandori, who is legally blind. “Science, it has this sense of wonder. Why should we be excluded, be denied that wonder?”

That frustration is at the heart of a new artistic collaboration that is trying to make some of science’s most significant advances tangible – and at the same time find employment for people with low-vision at the nation’s universities, places they are often excluded from.

So Dr Tandori made some of science’s most beautiful images tactile.

There are detailed possum and rat retinas done in putty. 3D-printed models of cells. A battle-scene tableau as a disease fights against immune system defenders. A model of the gastro virus, rotavirusdone in spaghetti and beans.

At a half-day event at Monash University’s Clayton campus, people with low-vision will be taken through the science by experts as they explore Dr Tandori’s models with their hands.

Sabrina Constantin delicately cups one of the models in her palms. It is pink, and glitters in the light. It looks like a sea anemone on acid. Sabrina, who has low vision, smiles. “It’s the texture. What I cannot see, I can feel, I can imagine.”

It’s a dendritic cell, one of the sentinels of the immune system, built out of paper mache. “Can you recognise it?”, Dr Tandori asks Professor Rossjohn, who laughs.

He seems a little bemused, seeing his life’s work turned into disco balls. “Yeah,” he shakes his head, “I don’t have an artistic bone in my body.”

The Sensory Scientific Exhibition and Discovery Day will be held May 31 at Monash University’s Clayton Campus (19 Ancora Imparo Way) from 9.30am to 1pm. The event is free. A free shuttle bus will run to the campus from the city.

Original article by Liam Mannix (The Age)

Photo credit: Jason South


Gabby and Erica on ‘Talking Vision’ about the Sensory Scientific Exhibition & Discovery Day

This week we talk science with a conversation with Dr. Gabby Watson and Dr. Erica Tandori from the Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University about an open day at the end of May specifically designed for people who are blind or have low vision. The exhibition will include tactile, sound, olfactory and low vision accessible display.

Dr.Erica Tandori, who is legally blind, is the project designer and artist in resident at the Institute and believes that art and science are perfectly aligned.

Listen to the program here

More info on Vision Australia Radio

Details of the event can be found here


New compound helps activate cancer-fighting T cells

Invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells are powerful weapons our body’s immune systems count on to fight infection and combat diseases like cancer, multiple sclerosis, and lupus. Finding ways to spark these potent cells into action could lead to more effective cancer treatments and vaccines.

While several chemical compounds have shown promise stimulating iNKT cells in animal models, their ability to activate human iNKT cells has been limited.

An international team of top immunologists, structural biologists, and chemists published in Cell Chemical Biology the creation of a new compound that appears to have the properties researchers have been looking for. The research was co-led by Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute’s (BDI) Dr Jérôme Le Nours, University of Connecticut’s Professor Amy Howell and Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s Dr Steve Porcelli.

The compound – a modified version of an earlier synthesized ligand – is highly effective in activating human iNKT cells. It is also selective – encouraging iNKT cells to release a specific set of proteins known as Th1 cytokines, which stimulate anti-tumour immunity.

One of the limitations of earlier compounds was their tendency to cause iNKT cells to release a rush of different cytokines. Some of the cytokines turned the body’s immune response on, while others turned it off. The conflicting cytokine activity hampered the compounds’ effectiveness.

The new compound – called AH10-7 – is uniquely structured so that does not happen.

“One of the goals in this field has been to identify compounds that elicit a more biased or selective response from iNKT cells, and we were able to incorporate features in AH10-7 that did that,” Professor Howell said.

The robust study, years in the making, also applied advanced structural and 3D computer modelling analysis to identify the underlying basis for the new compound’s success. These highly detailed insights into what is happening at the molecular level open up new paths for research and could lead to the development of even more effective compounds.

The molecular analysis helped validate and explain experimental results.

“By exposing a crystalized form of the molecular complex to a high-intensity X-ray beam at the Australian Synchrotron, we were able to obtain a detailed 3-D image of the molecular interplay between the invariant natural killer T cell receptor and AH10-7,” Dr Le Nours said.

“This enabled us to identify the structural factors responsible for AH10-7’s potency in activating iNKT cells. This valuable insight could lead to the development of even more effective anti-metastatic ligands,” he said.

In the current study, the research team made two significant modifications to an α-GalCer ligand in an attempt to make it more effective. They found that adding a hydrocinnamoyl ester on to the sugar stabilized the ligand and kept it close to the surface of the antigen-presenting cell, thereby enhancing its ability to dock with and stimulate human iNKT cells. In addition, trimming off part of the molecule’s sphingoid base appears to initiate the critical Th1 cytokine bias. Both changes, working in tandem, strengthened the effectiveness of the entire molecular complex in terms of activating human iNKT cells, Professor Howell says.

Original article