Medical research creates a buzz at USC

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Medical research creates a buzz at USC


Published on 20 February 2012

20 February 2012

Research into the medicinal properties of a sticky substance made by native Australian stingless bees is being undertaken by a University of the Sunshine Coast PhD student.

Biomedical Science researcher Karina Hamilton, 21, of Sippy Downs, will receive $75,830 in funding over three years from the Australian Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council to undertake the study.

Ms Hamilton is trying to determine the anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and wound healing properties of propolis, a resinous mixture made by Trigona carbonaria.

“The bee collects sap from a tree or bud and returns to the hive and mixes it with pollen or wax, for example, to form propolis,” she explained.

“We already know that bees from different regions around the world make propolis and it has medicinal properties.

“So far, no-one has looked at the propolis from the Australian native bee, so we are hoping to discover that it has similar healing abilities.”

Ms Hamilton said the uniqueness of the Australian bush also presented an opportunity to uncover something new.

“There is the potential to make an interesting find that we haven’t found elsewhere because of the different flora and fauna here,” she said.

“Once the hives are established in the field, we will extract the resin from them and take the samples back to the lab for testing.

“We’ll apply the propolis to human cells, including white blood cells, to see if we can notice any changes which might suggest it has anti-inflammatory or anti-oxidant properties.

“In the future, we’d like to develop an animal model of wound healing and test whether propolis is able to treat the wounds on an animal.”

Ms Hamilton said she was very grateful to receive the NHMRC scholarship funding.

“Receiving this scholarship means that I will be able to devote more of my time to my PhD research while still being able to cover my living costs,” she said.

“It has definitely taken the pressure off. I have been very lucky.”

Ms Hamilton is a former Urangan State High School OP1 graduate who completed USC’s three-year Bachelor of Biomedical Science degree in two years, followed by a Bachelor of Science (Honours) at USC.

Initially from Hervey Bay, Ms Hamilton said she chose to study at USC because it was closer to her family home than Brisbane, and she enjoyed the Sunshine Coast lifestyle.

In her first year at USC in 2008, she received a $12,000 Renouf Family Scholarship – one of several new scholarships introduced that year to reward academic excellence.

— Michelle Widdicombe

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