Sensing your diagnosis on the spot

On the spot blood analysis provides immediate results to doctors and patients.

On the spot blood analysis provides immediate results to doctors and patients.

By Emily Lehmann

“We’ve got your test results back and…” *Gulp*

Does that feeling sound familiar? Having any kind of medical test can be nerve-wracking – not just because of the necessary probing – but for the fear of a potential diagnosis while you wait for the results.

Thanks to developments in point-of-care testing, the waiting game is over for certain crucial blood tests which can be performed and analysed on the spot using sensitive ‘biosensor’ devices. These are the types of instruments that doctors or diabetics use to measure blood sugar levels.

Test results can be provided immediately so that you can avoid the potentially unnecessary stress that often comes with waiting. There’s the opportunity to get onto treatment and the path back to better health faster - and it’s also much more efficient for healthcare providers.

We’ve been working with Universal Biosensors, a small-to-medium sized (SME) manufacturer who makes these devices locally, to help them improve their products and test for a broader range of diseases.

The project started through the Researchers in Business program, which brought on board our materials expert Dr Helmut Thissen. Helmut has since been working alongside the company to develop a new coating material that will make the biosensor test strips more sensitive.

This will allow the devices to be used for a range of new tests (immunoassays) not currently available in point-of-care testing and could lead to time and cost savings for already-stretched healthcare providers.

This exciting R&D project will enable Universal Biosensors to grow and export more high-end products internationally, while improving healthcare for patients around the globe.

Check out this video to learn more about the work we’re doing with this growing manufacturer:

Universal Biosensors was connected to our researchers through our SME Engagement Centre, which helps Aussie SMEs find the right science to overcome technical challenges and grow their business.

We’re continuing to work with the company to create superior products ready for the market, supported by Victorian State Government’s Technology Voucher Program.


To map and protect: how our 3D Zebedee technology is helping re-build New Zealand

By Emily Lehmann 

Situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire, our Kiwi neighbours in New Zealand (NZ) are rattled by up to 20,000 earthquakes a year.

While most of these are minor, some can be catastrophic – like the 6.3 magnitude earthquake that shook Christchurch in 2011. This earthquake devastatingly claimed 185 lives and the country’s second largest city continues to rebuild from it three years on.

Unfortunately, there’s likelihood of another large magnitude quake – which fall above six on the Richter scale – rocking the country one day again in future.

To prepare for this, NZ has very stringent building regulations; and the 25,000 earthquake prone buildings that the country is estimated to have are the focus of maintenance and restoration efforts to ensure their stability.

In an effort to earthquake proof at-risk buildings, NZ-based building restoration company Solutions By Zeal is using our 3D laser mapping technology to survey buildings to highlight structural areas in need of strengthening or restoration.

Our technology is helping protect buildings in New Zealand from earthquake damage .

Our technology is helping protect buildings in New Zealand from earthquake damage.

ZEB1 – the commercial product of our Zebedee technology – is a handheld technology that allows users to create 3D maps of a desired location by simply walking through it.

The company found that by using ZEB1 to create accurate floor plans, elevations and wall widths, that they can save a massive 50 to 80 per cent on their measurement costs.

They have also found the technology particularly useful for measuring old buildings where there are no architectural plans.

Earthquake-strengthening and restoration work is just one of the many applications that the technology is being used for – from security and forestry, to mapping manufacturing production lines.

Zebedee has mapped some of the world’s most iconic landmarks, including the Leaning Tower of Pisa, as well as national treasures like the Jenolan Caves near the Blue Mountains and Fort Lytton in Brisbane.

ZEB1 is licensed to GeoSLAM, a spinout company of 3D Laser Mapping and CSIRO. Read more about our 3D mapping technology.


Five tips for enjoying the festive season without gaining weight

The average Aussie risks gaining several kilos over the holiday period. That might sound like a small number, but few of us lose it when the festive season is over. We asked Professor Manny Noakes, research director of our Food and Nutrition Flagship and co-author of the famous Total Wellbeing Diet, for five tips on how to survive the silly season without gaining extra baggage.

'Tis the season of indulgence.

‘Tis the season of indulgence.

1. Don’t just count kilojoules

Restricting your kilojoule intake is a surefire way to lose weight, but cutting back indiscriminately can lead to an unbalanced, unhealthy diet. Noakes recommends a focus on food groups rather than kilojoules counting. Ensuring you include food from each of the essential food groups each day, is a better way to get healthy.

“It is a much easier approach because you get optimal nutrients without having to learn the kilojoules of hundreds of different foods,” Noakes says. The essential food groups include protein foods such as meat, fish, chicken and eggs; dairy foods; low GI grains and cereals; fruits and vegetables, and healthy oils such as spreads and nuts.

2. Limit indulgences

Thirty-five per cent of the average Australian’s diet comes from “discretionary” foods with little nutritional value, such as alcohol, chips, lollies and cakes. That adds up to a whopping 2500-3500 kilojoules a day. “If you want to lose weight, limiting indulgences can have a dramatic impact over a period of time,” says Noakes. Try limiting yourself to one small indulgence per day (see blow), or seven in a week, to give yourself a small reward for eating well.

lollies

1 small indulgence equals:

  • 100ml Wine
  • 4 squares of chocolate
  • 1 fun size packet of potato chips
  • 1 scoop of ice cream
  • 1 chocolate biscuit

3. Stand every hour

It’s important to increase your everyday activity to help prevent weight gain and a good place to start is limiting the amount of time you sit per day.

Noakes recommends looking for opportunities to get off the couch or office chair and move wherever possible. For example taking the stairs, having short stand-up meetings at work, standing up when you take a phone call, or standing at parties rather than sitting. “Simply making an effort to spend less time sitting down and stand every hour can improve your health,” says Noakes.

4. Manage your appetite

During the festive season it’s hard to say no to holiday nibbles and cocktails or that extra snag at the weekend BBQ. Proactively managing your appetite with a higher protein, low GI diet can help prevent poor choices. “Protein controls appetite and low GI carbohydrates sustain energy, so having a light meal of 100g of lean protein food with a slice of grainy bread one hour before a party can help keep hunger in check,” says Noakes.

5. Sign up for a formal healthy eating plan

There is evidence showing that people who seek support in their weight loss efforts do better than those who go it alone. “We know that people who take part in weight loss programs find it easier to reach their goals,” says Noakes. “The support that people receive and the regular weight checks contribute to some of that success. The type of eating plan can also make a difference and a higher protein low GI plan has the best evidence for sustained weight loss success.

“The type of eating plan can also make a difference and a higher protein low GI plan has the best evidence for sustained weight loss success. That’s why we are releasing this new version of the Total Wellbeing Diet available as an online program in a new trial.”

Registrations for the online trial of our Total Wellbeing Diet are open until 10 November 2014. The cost for the 12-week program is $99 which is fully refundable if you complete the trial.

This article was originally published on Body & Soul


Putting over-crowded emergency rooms to bed

By Emily Lehmann 

Ever waited for a long time in a hospital emergency department and thought, there must be a better way?

It’s a common problem in the hospitals of Australia. While our nurses, doctors and medical staff are undeniable miracle workers, even they can only do so much. If there’s a sudden rush of sprained ankles, broken jaws and bruised elbows at your local hospital or medical centre needing urgent attention, then bed management can become crucial.

To help figure out how to manage this, we’ve come up with a handy tool to crunch the numbers and found that hospital demand is actually pretty predictable – particularly around major annual events (think Schoolies Week).

Austin Hospital, Melbourne.

Austin Hospital, Melbourne.

Today, the Victorian Government has announced that it will fund CSIRO to work with HealthIQ and Melbourne’s Austin Hospital for the first Victorian trial of our Demand Prediction Analysis Tool.

This tool is an adaptation of technology which is already being used by more than 30 Queensland hospitals to predict bed demand by the hour, day and week, helping to ease pressure on their emergency wards.

Using historical data to forecast bed demand, the tool has been shown to have a 90 per cent accuracy rate. It can predict how many patients will come through the doors, how serious cases will be and how many will likely be admitted to the hospital or discharged.

The tool anticipates the number of different injuries or illnesses likely to occur on any given day, so that hospitals can plan the staff, medical supplies and beds needed to care for patients.

The aim is to help hospitals manage waiting times so that patients arriving in emergency departments are seen and admitted or discharged within only a few hours.

The technology has the potential to save the Victorian public health sector around $9 million a year.

If the rest of the country was to adopt prediction tools like this, a huge $23 million in annual savings could be made across Australia.

The $230,000 trial is the first to be announced through the Victorian Government Technology Innovation Fund and will be completed by mid-2015.

Read more about our work to reduce hospital waiting times using new digital technologies.


Make our ASKAP telescope a star of the night sky

By Emily Lehmann

There’s a new star in the making in the world of astronomy, with our Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) named as a finalist in The Australian Innovation Challenge’s Manufacturing, Construction and Infrastructure category*.

We recently shared some of the first images produced  by the amazing ASKAP telescope. It comprises a cluster of 36 radio dishes that work in conjunction with a powerful supercomputer to form what is, in effect, a single composite radio telescope a massive six kilometres across.

This allows it to survey the night sky very quickly, taking panoramic snapshots over 100 times the size of the full moon (as viewed from Earth, of course!).

One of the ASKAP radio dishes, located in a remote area of Western Australia.

One of the ASKAP radio dishes, located in a remote area of Western Australia.

The world-leading facility is revolutionising astronomy, and this award nomination is a welcome recognition. You can vote for it here – just scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Now, for all you space cadets, here’s five astronomical facts about why ASKAP is out of this world and a sure-fire winner:

  1. ASKAP’s 36 radio dishes, each 12 metres in diameter, give it the capacity to scan the whole sky and make it sensitive to whisper-quiet signals from the Milky Way.
  2. ASKAP is an outstanding telescope in its own right, as well as a technology demonstrator for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). This pioneering technology will make ASKAP the fastest radio telescope in the world for surveying the sky.
  3. Once built, the SKA will comprise of a vast army of radio receivers distributed over tens to hundreds of kilometres in remote areas of Western Australia and Africa.
  4. The SKA will generate five million million bytes of information in its first day. That’s almost as many grains of sand on all of the world’s beaches.
  5. ASKAP is located in the remote Murchison Shire of Western Australia, which was chosen because there is hardly any human activity and so little background radio noise.

ASKAP is one of four CSIRO projects already in the running for different categories in the Oz’s Innovation Challenge (we’ve also written about swarm sensing and Direct Nickel). You can #voteCSIRO for any and all of them – just follow the links from the Challenge’s home page!


Next-gen technologies get down to Robo-business

It doesn't need to be a case of 'us vs them' - robots actually help humans perform better. Image - Franz Steiner www.webneel.com

It doesn’t need to be a case of ‘us vs them’ – robots actually help humans perform better. Image – Franz Steiner http://www.webneel.com

By Emily Lehmann 

A world in which robots and humans live side-by-side is no longer just stuff dreamed up in fantastical sci-fi movies (thank you very much James Cameron). ‘Cos if we’re talking about industry, the smart machine era is already here.

Next-gen technologies like self-driving vehicles, remote augmented reality and fully-autonomous robots are now being used to help companies work better, from underground mines to the factory floor.

The latest and greatest in the ‘bots biz was all the talk last week at RoboBusiness 2014, where we took the opportunity to share our vision for the world of intelligent industry.

We want to create an environment where man and machine can work safely and productively side-by-side. To help us achieve this, we’ve developed Guardian technologies: a suite of intelligent, lightweight assistive robots that will increase the productivity and global competitiveness of manufacturing firms.

The robots include Guardian angel, mentor, helper and worker technologies, which all play their own important and unique role in assisting – but not replacing – people in the workplace.

For instance, Guardians can be used to hold or move heavy, awkward items, or be deployed in places not considered safe for humans to perform tasks - all while a person controls them remotely. Check out this video to see how they work:

We have some exciting news around one of our clever Guardian technologies, Zebedee, which is about to be enhanced with new features and improvements.

Zebedee is our leading handheld 3D laser mapping technology and the next generation version will allow manufacturers to create faster and more accurate 3D simulations of their factory production lines.

We’re also about to start a $2 million research and development partnership with UK-based start-up GeoSLAM on the developments to make this happen. You can read more about this on the IT Wire.

 


A Nickel for your vote

Last week we brought you bees with backpacks… but this week we’re bringing nickel back.

Please, don’t be scared – we’re not talking about that band. Instead, another of our awesome research collaborations – the Direct Nickel process – has been nominated for an award in The Australian’s Innovation Challenge. The project, which has the potential to unlock 70 per cent of the world’s nickel supply and provide an enormous boost to the Australian economy, is up for a gong in the Challenge’s Energy and Minerals category.

And again, we’re asking you to #voteCSIRO

So why do we think this deserves your vote? Well, ask any metallurgist and they will tell you: nickel is a versatile and important metal, famous for giving stainless steel its strength. In fact, nickel is used in hundreds of thousands of products: from nuts and bolts, to cutlery and cooking pots, through to industrial equipment and jet engines.

Fiona McCarthy of Direct Nickel working at our pilot plant in Perth.

Fiona McCarthy of Direct Nickel working at our pilot plant in Perth. Image – Chad Taylor

A new processing method for extracting this in-demand resource, developed by Sydney-based company Direct Nickel, is being tested at our brand-new, $3.5 million pilot plant in Perth.

It uses recyclable nitric acid as a more environmentally friendly and cost-effective way of extracting nickel from untapped laterite reserves, which are estimated to hold more than 70 per cent of the world’s total nickel supplies. And it just so happens that we have an abundance of nickel laterites in Australia, while other sources of nickel around the world are running low.

If all goes to plan, this processing method could be ready to roll out to industry in two years’ time – and it’s predicted that it could realise a $30 billion per year Australian nickel industry.

We reckon that’s worth a vote.


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