Research Round Up: 27 March 2020

The Research Roundup has expanded to feature publications from across the Faculty. MIPS is releasing weekly summaries highlighting a selection of papers from each theme. If you have a recent publication that you would like to see featured, please email us and we'll pop it in the next edition.


Predicting nanostructure stability using blood-mimicking system

Monash researchers developed a way to test the stability of nanoscale structures capable of controlling drug release in a blood-mimicking system.

These nanostructures, termed lyotropic liquid crystals (LLCs), are formed when lipids self-assemble to form a variety of 3D shapes, such as spheres (liposomes), stacked tubes (hexosomes) and honeycombed structures (cubosomes).

Hexosomes and cubosomes are currently studied as smart materials that can control drug release in the body. Use of these nanostructures can see a replacement of daily injections with weekly or even monthly treatments for conditions such as drug dependence and chronic pain.

Published in Materials, researchers Dr Angel Tan, Yuen Yi Lam, Xiaohan Sun and Professor Ben Boyd have revealed a new technique detecting the stability of the nanostructures to predict its actions in humans. Losing structural stability will impact drug release rate.

Combining the LLCs with blood-circulating immune cells and analysed at the Australian Synchrotron research facility, the results show that hexosomes and cubosomes lose structure stability when mixed with cells, while liposomes remain unchanged.

The team propose this new method to facilitate formulation optimisation, as it allows researchers to test their LLC formulation and make modifications before progressing to preclinical tests.

Monash researchers have created nanoparticles of silver that has the potential to halt bacterial infection without the risk of creating “superbugs”.

Authors: Angel Tan, Yuen Lam, Xiaohan Sun, Ben Boyd

Nanoscale solution for a global “superbug” problem

Superbugs are created when bacteria evolve after exposure to current antibiotics and become resistant to their bacteria-killing effects. Multidrug resistance of bacteria threatens our ability to treat infections, increasing chances of mortality for otherwise treatable diseases such as urinary tract infections.

Published in Small, the study showed that silver nanoparticles prevent bacteria from forming biofilms, bacterial communities that promote bacterial growth and are protective against antibiotics.

Importantly, the nanoparticles can disrupt biofilms at low concentrations that do not kill bacteria, preventing the bacteria from evolving, with the added advantage of protecting our natural gut microbiota.

The researchers have demonstrated that inhibition of biofilm formation using nanomaterials is a safe and effective strategy to combat bacterial infections.

This study was an international collaboration between Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology (CBNS), Lahore University of Management Science (Pakistan), Clemson University (USA), Ningbo University (China), University of Aarhus (Denmark) and University of Queensland.

Authors: Huma, ZE; Javed, I; Zhang, ZZ; Bilal, H; Sun, YX; Hussain, SZ; Davis, TP; Otzen, DE; Landersdorfer, CB; Ding, F; Hussain, I; Ke, PC

Unity in uncertainty. How pharmacists can build a global community.

In a recent commentary, the PharmAlliance partners have presented a framework highlighting the changing roles of pharmacists and how they can be unified for the global pharmacy community.

The framework was developed as a product of the discussions held at the Global Summit of Pharmacy Practice Innovation, in which leading pharmacy professionals from Australia, USA and UK attended.

The central theme of these discussions was the growing demand for the rational use of medicines to achieve better patient outcomes, which can be achieved through a consistent approach to care and medicine use.  Indeed pharmacies are now shifting focus towards patient engagement to ensure safe medication use, a change from traditional dispensing roles.

Recognising and articulating these commonalities in practice are now being faced globally, the One Pharmacy Community framework was developed to provide a consistent nomenclature of pharmacy services.  The framework has four pillars of education, research, practice and collaboration.

Each pillar is equally important and reliant on one another to enable pharmacy practice to achieve the best patient-focused healthcare. For example, education of pharmacy students would benefit from more sustained collaborations with other schools and professional associations. Further, ensuring that research and evidence is timely, effective and implemented with real world relevance will be critical to informing future policy and the practice of pharmacy. Real-world research and approaches will be critical to practice realities.

Researchers anticipate that through using the One Pharmacy Community framework to unify pharmacy services, health systems could potentially receive beneficial impacts on clinical and economic goals through improved health outcomes and reduced cost.

Authors: Easter, JC; Jani, YH; Kirkpatrick, CM; Steeb, DR; Eckel, SF

Addressing global health priorities in aged care with medication advisory committees

A new study from Centre of Medicine Use and Safety (CMUS) researchers has provided various recommendations and opportunities to optimise the role of the Medication Advisory Committee (MAC) in residential aged care services.

MACs assist and advise the development, promotion, monitoring, review and evaluation of medication management policies, procedures and outcomes. The committees are aligned with the World Health Organisation’s recommendations for promoting the rational use of medication in hospitals and other health care facilities. Management of medicine use and safety is a crucial part of residential aged care, as many residents are often on multiple medications.

The study worked with 27 residential aged care services in Victoria, and primarily focused on facilities in regional and rural areas. CMUS researchers engaged with key stakeholders (such as GPs, pharmacists’ and nurses) and focus groups to investigate and understand the current structure and function of MACs. The findings reveal that while structures differed in settings, all members have the same goal to uphold quality use of medicines to protect their patients.

The study found that committees often focused on advising on standards and processes rather than clinical governance and a shift in focus could help to improve safe medicine use. Increasing the breadth and variety of health professionals on MACs and including resident representatives was also identified as a key opportunity. The paper recommended a number of administrative measures to optimise MAC in aged care services, such as a clear agenda and flexible meeting times and format.

Lastly, the paper recommended that MACs should consistently advise on best practice and facilitate appropriate education to implement new initiatives.

Authors: Leonie Picton, Samanta Lalic, Taliesin Ryan-Atwood, Kay Stewart, Carl Kirkpatrick, Michel Dooley, Justin Turner, Simon Bell