It’s #WallabyBoxing season again!!

We bought a house in #Tasmania just over a year ago. I would sit on the back deck and watch the wallaby battles every night while my 1 year old son fell asleep. We just started season 2. #WallabyBoxing #WildTasmania #BackyardBiology

Current landscape of cancer drug trials and see development

There are a lot of them, but new approvals and progress have been steady.

Immuno-oncology drug development goes global

The deadliest tumor cell ever (arguably) can also be beautiful

This devil facial tumor (#DFT) cell comes alive with color when stained to show the nucleus (blue) and structural features. Interestingly, the green stain of the deadly tumor comes from a peptide from deadly death cap mushroom #DeathCapMushroom

How do you create a lab culture (the social kind, not just cells)

Extremely helpful advice the eco-evo eco-evo blog!

Extreme Competence: Keystone Hosts of Infections paper out today

This Extreme Competence: Keystone Hosts of Infections paper out today was the culmination of much “cat herding” by Marty Martin following the host competence workshop in Australia in 2018.

Extreme competence

Gratitude is great!

This Friday got off to a great start when I was greeted with a thank you card and bottle of wine. #Gratitude = #Motivation

Great day for Wild Immunity!

Paper about developing an on/off switch for IFNg in DFT cells published, Wild Immunology editorial accepted, and grant to support our Tasmanian devil vaccine research made it through the first round.

We have developed an on/off switch for genes in Tasmanian devil cells

Why do we need a switch for turning genes on/off in Tasmanian Devil cells DFTD? It’s easier to find your keys when you can switch the lights on! To learn more check out our latest open access publication:
Inducible IFN-γ Expression for MHC-I Upregulation in Devil Facial Tumor Cells


To make your own on/off switch for wild immunology, contact @WildImmunity

Eyes on the beach?

How many people would be scared away by the eye spots? I can think of a few (mom:). Amazing trip to #MariaIsland, Tasmania for @WildImmunity

Call for more #WildImmunology published as eLetter in Science!

Flies AS, Baker, ML, Le Nours, J, Rossjohn J. Response to “The future of humans as model organisms”. eLetter in Science.

Here is the full text:

RE: “The future of humans as model organisms” FitzGerald, et al., 552-553.

Andrew S. FliesAustralian Research Council Discovery Early Career Research Fellow,Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania 7000, Australia

Michelle L. BakerResearch Scientist,CSIRO Health and Biosecurity Business Unit/Australian Animal Health Laboratory, Geelong, Victoria, 3220, Australia

Jerome Le NoursAustralian Research Council Future FellowBiomedicine Discovery Institute, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia

Jamie RossjohnAustralian Research Council Laureate FellowBiomedicine Discovery Institute, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia

(12 September 2018)

The Essay “The future of humans as model organisms” (10 Aug, p. 552) highlighted the potential to incorporate more “real-world” testing into biomedical research. Here we propose that the biomedical research community also takes a closer look at other genetically outbred animals in more natural environments. This approach would satisfy key points highlighted by FitzGerald et al.: (i) broadening the diversity of populations studied, (ii) taking advantage of natural “gene knockouts”, (iii) quantifying “physiological noise” due to genetics and the environment (1).

For example, bats, rodents and wild birds harbor many pathogens (e.g. rabies, hantavirus, influenza), thus providing insights into how these hosts are protected, which may lead to parallel insights for other species. Further, transmissible tumors in dogs (2) and Tasmanian devils (3, 4) are simultaneously a cancer, infectious disease, and allograft and provide opportunities to investigate immune regulation and evasion. Advances in monitoring techniques (e.g. remote-sensing) for these natural experiments allow a “more direct linkage to functional outcomes” (10 Aug, p. 553), such as fecundity and survival. Furthermore, these real-world “experiments” might have improved translational capacity for humans and veterinary medicine and stimulate ideas that are unlikely to be conceived in laboratory-based studies.

Finally, several amphibian, bat, and ape populations are in decline largely due to diseases (chytridiomycosis (5, 6), white nose syndrome (7), and ebola virus (8, 9)), therefore, fundamental knowledge gained from studying these natural disease models may not only advance human medicine but could also impact wildlife conservation for many generations. The increasing availability of genomes and “omics” approaches for non-model species has opened many new research pathways. However, to realize the full conservation and biomedical research potential a coordinated effort by an international consortium to develop species-specific reagents is needed.

References and Notes:
1. G. FitzGerald et al., The future of humans as model organisms. Science. 361, 552–553 (2018).
2. C. Murgia, J. K. Pritchard, S. Y. Kim, A. Fassati, R. A. Weiss, Clonal Origin and Evolution of a Transmissible Cancer. Cell. 126, 477–487 (2006).
3. A.-M. Pearse, K. Swift, Allograft theory: transmission of devil facial-tumour disease. Nature. 439, 549 (2006).
4. R. J. Pye et al., A second transmissible cancer in Tasmanian devils. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 113, 374–379 (2016).
5. J. Voyles et al., Shifts in disease dynamics in a tropical amphibian assemblage are not due to pathogen attenuation. Science. 359, 1517–1519 (2018).
6. J. Alan Pounds et al., Widespread amphibian extinctions from epidemic disease driven by global warming. Nature. 439, 161–167 (2006).
7. J. M. Lorch et al., Experimental infection of bats with Geomyces destructans causes white-nose syndrome. Nature. 480, 376–378 (2011).
8. P. D. Walsh et al., Catastrophic ape decline in western equatorial Africa. Nature. 422, 611–614 (2003).
9. K. L. Warfield et al., Vaccinating captive chimpanzees to save wild chimpanzees. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 111, 8873–8876 (2014).