Kamsana Vijayakumar arrived from Sorbonne University (Paris) and is undertaking research on surgical adhesives as part of her MSc degree. The project is based on chemically functionalising a protein called sericin, created by silkworms and isolated from silk cocoons. This leads to the formation of adhesive gels able to seal surgical wounds and hold the tissues together. Kamsana has carried out difficult synthetic work to produce reagents used to modify the sericin and is engaged with producing sericin-based hydrogels and assessing them as adhesives. Professors Idriss Blakey (UQ) and Tim Dargaville (QUT) are external co-supervisors on this project.
Noémie Gallorini and Pierre-Guillaume Champavier are from Polytech Marseille. Noémie’s topic is the experimental degradation of hyaluronic acid. This material is used extensively in the cosmetic industry as an injectable dermal filler, and episodically can cause the occlusion of retinal arteries and blindness. The effects of an enzyme and of ultrasound on hyaluronic acid is currently being investigated in QEIF’s laboratories. Dr Tai Smith is Noémie’s co-supervisor. Pierre-Guillaume, under the co-supervision of QEIF Research Officer Dr Jenny Young, is carrying out extensive laboratory work to assess the anti-oxidative effect on retinal photoreceptor cells of the sericin produced by a mutant silkworm race created by Japanese scientists. The oxidative stress, an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body which can lead to cell and tissue damage, is recognised as a cause for certain retinal degenerative conditions and finding factors with antioxidant properties is important to eye health.