Five years of hard work have paid off for researchers at the University of Tasmania who have discovered a new way to understand the immune system of Tasmanian Devils.
The new, cost-effective, method allows the researchers to replicate human immunology in other species such as Tasmanian Devils.
Menzies Institute for Medical Research senior research fellow Dr Andrew Flies said the new system had allowed researchers to extract tumour cells from the blood of devils.
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"There is 160 million years of evolution separating devils and humans but a lot of the immune proteins we are looking at seem to interact in the same way in devils as in humans," he said.
"We found ... a protein that can turn parts of the immune system on and off ... on the surface of the devil tumour cells.
"There is two things we can do with that - we can try to manipulate that protein, turn the immune system on and off using that - and in the lab we could put devil tumour cells into blood and we could pull the tumour cells back out."
He said the research could have implications for human health.
"The protein we found which is really high in tumour sells in devils is one that is really high in human blood cancer cells too," Dr Flies said.
"So we can see what is working for the human blood cancers and try them on devils but also if we are trying something new with the devils that we can manipulate their immune system we can try to bring it back to the human clinic the other way."
Dr Flies said the research would not have been possible without the support from the Tasmanian community.
"Work has been ongoing for a long time and it has really been supported the whole time with great support from the Tasmanian community," he said.
"The Save the Tasmanian Devils program from the state government and the Save the Tasmanian Devil appeal ... have been really helpful for our research, the research wouldn't have happened without the great community support."
The end goal of the research is to develop a vaccine which would protect the devils from the tumours.
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