A new strategic initiative for 2011, the Technology Platforms will provide a framework for research across the core program areas. These technologies are the crux of our experimental studies, and are not only widely used within our Research Centre; they have the potential to benefit other Priority Research Centres.
The imaging platform is coordinated by A/Prof Peter Stanwell, an imaging specialist with extensive experience in a variety of imaging methods, both in research and industry. Newcastle has a wealth of imaging facilities available including MRI, fMRI, structural imaging, magnetic resonance spectroscopy and pharmacokinetic modelling. This platform aims to assist cross collaborative imaging studies, and to raise the profile of medical and research imaging in the Hunter.
In 2011 a new 3 tesla MRI magnet will be brought online at the Mater Hospital, which will be available to researchers.
Currently the Centre holds a Master Research Agreement with Siemens in the fields of magnetic resonance imaging and magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Benefits associated with this MRA include early access to hardware and software for imaging.
Toshiba have announced the establishment of a Luminary Centre in Brain Imaging Research within the Stroke Research Program. This centres on the acquisition by the John Hunter Hospital of the $2.8 million Aquilion One CT scanner, a top of the range advanced scanner capable of performing multimodal dynamic brain vascular imaging. The John Hunter Centre is the only Toshiba Luminary Research Centre outside USA and Japan.
Future directions include development of a grant application to purchase an animal-specific MRI magnet to be housed on the Callaghan campus. Acquisition of an animal magnet will greatly assist ongoing drug and behaviour modelling studies.
The Web Based Technologies platform will be headed by Dr Frances Kay-Lambkin, a Psychologist and researcher whose focus is in the use of cognitive behaviour therapy, motivational interviewing and mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques among people with co-occurring mental health and alcohol/other drug problems.
Web based technology is a novel platform within mental health, at the forefront of the e-health movement. This technology aims to provide online access to cognitive behavioural treatments for clients who may not have ready access to in person therapy. Additionally, online clinics would enable clinicians more consistent contact with clients.
Web based technology can be used not only for treatment, but also as a recruitment site for clients to link in with other potential studies. Data can be collected online, reducing project costs and increasing the quality and cleanliness of data. A database of clients as well as researchers and clinicians can be generated which will empower individuals to immediately access details of relevant upcoming and ongoing research. This will facilitate translational research between CTNMH and clinical services.
Establishment of an e-health research clinic will be a useful forum for training opportunities for health professionals, researchers and students.
Current studies model both behaviour and biology in a variety of animals. There is difficulty in extrapolating the animal models to human behaviour or conditions; therefore a pooled knowledge of animal behaviour is key. There are distinct differences obvious between types of rodent models (such as mouse, guinea pig, rat), all of which are used within CTNMH research studies.
At present CTNMH researchers are running animal models in stroke, depression like behaviours, anxiety, and addiction (both genetic and behavioural). Sensitive models require specialised care to ensure the experimental model is not compromised by external factors (such as diurnal conditions/times, rewarding (food etc), and stress from noise/light/sound/movement).
The animal modelling platform looks to consolidate resources used across the Centre, and to have these overseen by a senior technician with the capacity to advise on optimising experimental conditions. This platform will be overseen by Dr Rohan Walkera neuroscientist specialising in mood disorders, and Dr Neil Spratt, a clinical neuroscientist researching models and treatments for stroke.
Dr Douglas Smith, co-convenor of the DAC program and specialist in mitochondria and ageing will coordinate the cell technologies platform. The spectrum of studies performed by the CTNMH researchers generates a wide variety of animal and human tissue samples (for example, CSF, blood, cells)Currently available technologies include:
- 3 and 4 Channel confocal microscopy, tissue labelling
- Bright field and epifluorescence microscopy
- Image analysis
- Genomics (gene expression, microarray, SNP, Deep Sequencing)
- Proteomics (2D gels, blotting etc)
- Functional analysis (electrophysiology)
- Laser Capture Microdissection (single cell capability)
- Macrodissection (tissue areas eg spinal chord)
The primary goal for the cell technologies platform is to centralise information for researchers regarding the techniques available, the specialist contact and associated costs of the technology. This platform will assist researchers in accessing new techniques and foster collaboration with UoN researchers.
Future directions of this platform will be to establish a tissue repository of animal and/or human tissue/cells/DNA which can be accessed by researchers.
Establishing a tissue bank could be a future goal â€“ animal or human banks of tissue/cells/DNA etc to be accessed by researchers. Key issues would be where the bank could be stored, and sourcing material (particularly human).