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Chemical compounds abstract

Chemistry lights the way for medical advances

Fluorescent sensors help us to learn more about disease
To expand our knowledge of human health it’s crucial to have an understanding of the changes occurring inside the body as a result of disease. Using sensors, new insights can be drawn about illness and treatment.
Dr Liz New

Science star on the rise, Associate Professor Liz New is combining her love of chemistry with medical science to advance our understanding of disease. 

“My research focuses on developing tools to better understand the chemistry of the body to enable new insights into many of the key questions in medical research, in particular the diseases of ageing.

“We use fluorescent sensors that emit light to visualise biochemical changes in the body caused by disease,” said New.

“These sensors light up where the body is experiencing oxidative stress.” 

It was previously a very difficult task to understand what was happening inside the body but thanks to Liz and her team, researchers are much better equipped to image biological events. 

“Through my research I try and address questions like; what changes occur during disease, the location of disease-causing chemicals or drug molecules, and the role of chemical signalling molecules in health.”

“I have reported ten new sensors, one that is capable of indicating the effect of copper levels in Alzheimer’s disease and another that shows how oxidative stress is essential in fat breakdown and even in embryonic development.

“I have also developed sensors that observe how cancer treatments such as cisplatin have effect within the cell.

“Two sensors I developed to see oxidative stress have now been commercialised and are sold by a Canadian bioreagents company. They’re being used by more than 40 groups world-wide to study health and disease.” 

Her team are now focused on expanding the range of colours as well as the brightness and stability of light emitting chemical compounds. 

The tools that we make are helping medical researchers better understand diseases, which will then help in the development of treatments and improve health outcomes for the entire community.
Associate Professor Liz New

“As well as the medical sensing work that we do, we are also working towards sensors that will be helpful for remote communities. For example, we are working on simple methods for sensing heavy metal contamination in the environment,” New explained.

Spanning multiple disciplines, the research New is doing requires plenty of collaboration.  

“In order to conduct my research, I need to make new chemicals, so it’s very important to me that I am located in Chemistry, but able to collaborate with so many great medical researchers throughout the University.”

A constant inspiration to her peers, Liz is committed to developing the next generation of scientists and has built a strong network of collaborators to improve research culture and environments.

“One of my biggest achievements to date is having been able to train some exceptionally talented researchers (from undergrads to postdocs), and then to see them go on and make their own mark on science,” beamed New.

“I’m also the (founding) co-chair of the new Sydney Early-Mid Career Academic Network (SEMCAN).” 

Liz is making waves in the science community and has been awarded a number of prestigious honours. She is a SOAR Fellow and a Westpac Future Fellow. 

She’s also been named Research of the Year by a number of organisations, has collected a Young Tall Poppy Science award and is a Eureka finalist for the second year in a row.