Research and Technology Platforms
Our Research and Technology Platforms provide a framework for research across the core program areas. These platforms are core competencies, and are widely used by multiple programs in our PRC, whilst also having potential benefit to external research groups.
The imaging platform is coordinated by Associate Professor 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 was brought online at the Mater Hospital, which is available to all researchers.
Currently the CTNMH 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 Preclinical Neurobiology platform encompasses expertise in cell technologies, animal modelling, optogenetics and electrophysiology. This platform aims to consolidate resources across the CTNMH and ensure that state of the art techniques and knowledge are available to all Centre members.
Current animal models study 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.
CTNMH researchers currently hold 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 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)
- Optogenetics (light activiation of target cell populations in vitro and in vivo)
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 maybe a future goal (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).
The Cognitive Psychometrics platform enables methodologies embedded within the Development, Ageing and Cognition program to be more accessible across all of the CTNMH programs.
Translational Mental Health in Communities and Services
The Translational Mental Health in Communities and Services (TMH – C&S) provides access to clinical research and application expertise. This platform encompasses mental health interventions, promotion, prevention, population health, service delivery, practice development, training evaluation, policy implementation, and information dissemination.
Framework: Translational MH research and evaluation is:
- Dynamic (e.g., progressively improving the quality, effectiveness, impact, volume, efficiency and timing of MH and related research);
- Bidirectional (e.g., research influencing practice and vice versa); and
- Goal-directed (e.g., improving health, community awareness and engagement, and front-line service delivery); in addition to more traditional research/evaluation projects, this encompasses practice and service development, community dissemination and implementation research projects.
Web Based Technologies
The Web Based Technologies platform is 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.