A week to celebrate research

Maggots and their microbe friends will be the topic of this year’s Harrison Lecture, held as part of Barwon Health and Deakin University Research Week 2016.

Research Week, from Monday 14 November to Friday 18 November, will showcase the research activities of Barwon Health and Deakin. It will include guest lectures by prominent Geelong researchers, various presentations, and education sessions aimed at early researchers.

The 2016 Harrison Lecture is entitled “Maggots and their Microbe Friends: Unravelling the Mystery.” It will explain how the much maligned offspring of the detested blowfly have an important role to play in treating wounds and fighting infections.

It will be presented by entomologist and Deakin Associate Professor in Forensic Science Michelle Harvey and entomologist and PhD student Ms Natalie Gasz.

In a time of increased antibiotic resistance, the two are investigating the relationship between maggots and microbes to determine whether there are better ways of using maggots in clinical practice, and in countering flystrike in the farming sector. Ms Gasz is last year’s winner of Deakin’s 3MT award for her presentation, “Medical Maggots – Misunderstood Superheroes.”

“Forensic entomologists use maggots to aid in estimation of post-mortem interval and maggots’ love for all things dead is already being exploited in maggot debridement therapy to remove dead tissue from wounds and stimulate new tissue growth,” A/Prof Harvey said.

“However, discovering how flies do what they do in bacterially-dense environments and what makes them so successful at killing off damaging bacteria, spreading useful bacteria, and surviving the bacterial onslaught themselves, could lead to new ways to make use of maggot superpowers in medical treatments.”

[testimonial_text]Maggots are already being used to clean infected wounds, such as diabetic ulcers and pressure sores, but this could be extended to fight other chronic external infections by harnessing the bacteria that live inside maggots – including the creation of ‘infection specific’ maggots.[/testimonial_text]
[testimonial_picture name=”Ms Natalie Gasz” details=”Deakin PhD student”]
Ms Natalie Gasz[/testimonial_picture]

“There are over 900 bacterial species that live within wild flies and maggots, which kill anything that may harm them. Currently, maggots are sterilised before they are put on a wound, but their bacterial sidekicks could actually provide better healing.”

The Harrison Lecture will be held in the Eastern Hub, Geelong on Thursday 17 November at 5pm, followed by the presentation of the annual Barry Jones Medal.

Awarded to the person who has done the most to promote Geelong as a place of research and innovation in the past year, the medal will be presented by the man himself, Australian Living Treasure, The Hon Barry Jones AC.

Australia’s longest serving science minister (1983-1990) and best known intellectual, the irrepressible Dr Jones is also a writer, lawyer, broadcaster and social activist.

Born in Geelong during the Great Depression, Dr Jones retains a strong affection for the City. His most recent book, “The Shock of Recognition,” a journey through the literature and music that inspire him, was published earlier this year.

As well as the Harrison Lecture and Barry Jones Medal, Research Week will feature two public forums.

“Dying to Know – Navigating Advanced Care Planning,” led by Barwon Health, aims to stimulate discussion and build knowledge about end-of-life issues, and grow the capacity of individuals and community groups to take action in end-of-life planning. A panel of health experts will be available for questions.

“Taking Nutritional Psychiatry to the World,” led by Deakin and presented by internationally renowned mental health researcher Associate Professor Felice Jacka, will explore A/Prof Jacka’s innovative research into how individuals’ diets and other lifestyle behaviours may contribute to mental health problems.

• Learn more about Research Week and see the full calendar of events.

• Register for the 2016 Harrison Lecture for Innovation and presentation of the Barry Jones Medal

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