donate link to home page link to home page about the disease Save the Tasmanian devil. Devil Facial Tumouir Disease threatens the existence of this internationally-recognised icon. In some areas more than 90% of the Tasmanian devil population has been wiped out.

Early detection of DFTD is closer

Thanks to funding from the Save the Tasmanian Devil Appeal an early diagnosis of DFTD is closer.

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Research into Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) has progressed in many directions.  To-date, however, little progress has been made in the discovery of new “biomarkers” that can be used for early detection of the disease.  One approach to biomarker discovery is metabolomics, which involves the detection of hundreds to thousands of small molecule metabolites in biofluids such as serum or urine. 

In late 2014, Associate Professor Robert Shellie from the University of Tasmania was awarded $33,000 from the Devil Appeal grants to progress a project titled, “DFTD biomarker discovery”. The committee reviewing the Grant considered this project central to preserving the wild population of Tasmanian devils.

Along with colleagues from the Australian Centre for Research on separation Science (ACROSS), in collaboration with colleagues from the Central Science Laboratory, the School of Biological Sciences and Menzies Institute of Medical Research, they have completed the first published study on the non-targeted metabolomics analysis of Tasmanian devils.

Their research focussed on using serum samples to search for a unique DFTD metabolic fingerprint.  Utilising advanced approaches for separation and detection (liquid chromatography and high resolution mass spectrometry, respectively) and data analysis, the team reported they could distinguish between healthy and DFTD devils, based on an array of potential biomarkers. 

“These findings provide a valuable step toward the development of prediction models for DFTD in the latent stage (non-symptomatic), an urgent priority that underpins epidemiological research and management for preserving the wild population of the Tasmanian Devil.” said  Drs Naama Karu and Richard Wilson, co-authors on the study.

“In addition, the profiled metabolome will direct future research based on targeted analysis of specific disease biomarkers, leading to greater understanding of the disease pathogenesis,” they added.

Researchers involved thank donors to the Devil Appeal, noting that without their support this urgent research to develop prediction models for DFTD may not have progressed as quickly.

To read the full study please visit here: Journal of Proteome Research.