“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller
THE UNIVERSITY OF AUCKLAND
Centre for Brain Research, Auckland Bioengineering Institute, Centre for Advanced MRI Research (CAMRI) and Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences
Under a grant awarded by the University of Auckland’s Strategic Investment stream, Dr Holdsworth and Sir Richard Faull have been helping to build a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) research programme at the Centre for Brain Research (CBR).
Mātai and CAMRI at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences are currently jointly developing imaging protocols for the early detection of mild traumatic brain injury.
The TBI research team now comprises faculty members, post-doctoral researchers, and students across the CBR, the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, and the Auckland Bioengineering Institute, the Institute of Environmental Science and Research Ltd, Auckland University of Technology, and Mātai.
This research programme will be part of a larger TBI initiative that will continue to bring together researchers through shared interests and activities from within the University of Auckland and Mātai, as well as nationwide through collaborations with Brain Research New Zealand (BRNZ) and MedTech Centres of Research Excellence (CoREs).
Through expansion of these collaborations, we will boost the health-related discoveries in both mTBI and in the region, the impact of which will be beneficial to the whole of New Zealand.
NGĀTI POROU HAUORA
Mātai is collaborating with Ngāti Porou Hauora and its research partners, including the Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Bio-discovery, The Universities of Otago and of Auckland, Genomics Aotearoa, and many others. Ngāti Porou Hauora’s Te Rangawairua o Paratene Ngata Research Centre based in Te Puia Springs continues their long-standing involvement in research and innovation initiatives that address health priorities for Māori and rural communities. As part of the vision of the late Dr Paratene Ngata for Ngāti Porou Hauora to lead our own research developments as part of becoming a “tikanga and research-based centre of excellence for Hauora Māori”, these research priorities include to improve understandings of how both genetic and environmental factors exacerbate risks associated with prevalent chronic metabolic conditions (gout, type-2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular and kidney disease) and to proactively contribute to better preventative and precision medicine approaches for these and other priorities for our people to live longer and live well.
Mātai will aid these efforts in Māori and rural health by providing advanced image protocol development, expertise, and analysis. Complementary research activities will include the use of the Mātai imaging facilities to understand metabolic conditions and track the progress of new treatment approaches. DEXA scanning will be used to understand body composition, and MRI will be used to track cardiovascular, kidney, musculoskeletal/joint, and liver health in such studies. Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) will be used for assessing retinal vascular health which is thought to be a marker for a number of metabolic conditions, including cardiovascular disorders and diabetes.
Investigating the pathophysiology of the brain using amplified MRI (aMRI)
Through a research grant from the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the USA, Mātai will investigate the pathophysiology of the brain. The project is underway in collaboration with Mehmet Kurt, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Stevens Institute of Technology, and Adjunct Assistant Professor, Translational and Molecular Imaging Institute, Icahn Mount Sinai School of Medicine, The University of Auckland, as well as with collaborators from Queens University Canada, and Stanford University.
Using aMRI, the project will investigate, measure, and understand the interplay between the pathophysiology of the brain and its intrinsic motion. The end goal is the development of a tool for understanding a variety of pathophysiological processes, that provides a means for quick and easy visualisation of altered function and tissue biomechanical properties of the brain. In parallel, we will improve our aMRI method to capture and quantitatively track 3D brain motion during the cardiac cycle. We will then untangle the effect of physiological flow on the intrinsic brain motion through the newly developed 3D aMRI method. Finally, to test the efficacy of our aMRI approach in discerning different brain pathologies, we will conduct in vivo experiments for a known pathophysiological abnormality (i.e., Chiari Malformation I) in a small patient cohort as a proof of concept.
Our unique technology brings together a strong team of engineers, radiologists, medical physicists, and applied mathematicians. By bringing together concepts from medical imaging, computer vision and biomechanical modeling, our goal is to provide a better understanding of the pathophysiology of our most complex but least understood organ.