The International Brain Research Organisation’s recent international meeting was a chance for CNBP researchers to present their intense focus on translational research, and highlighted the differences with other approaches.
CNBP director Mark Hutchinson said the meeting was a showcase for how international neuroscientists were using the latest off-the-shelf technology.
“But it wasn’t necessarily a lot of new custom technology development that was on display. It was asking really important, but I’d say not necessarily translational research questions that are going to actually change someone’s life.”
Mark and three other researchers, Prof Suzi Hong (UCSD), Associate Professor Elisa Hill-Yardin (RMIT) and CNBP Associate Investigator Associate Professor Sarah Spencer took part in a symposium on psychoneuroimmunology, highlighting the latest research developments around the Pacific Rim in brain immune communication.
Mark talked about the capabilities of the CNBP in sensing, imaging and decoding neuroimmune communication systems.
“My discussion included a coverage of the nanoparticle through to microscopy work we are undertaking in the CNBP,” Mark said.
“I spoke about the technology that is going to then allow us to scale those fundamental discoveries into translational clinical applications in the surgery, in doctor’s consulting rooms, and beyond.”
He said the discussion highlighted the unique strengths of CNBP technologies.
Whereas most of the people at the IBRO meeting presenting spoke about technologies specifically targeting neuronal systems, the 10% of cells in the brain and spinal cord, the researchers in this session spoke to the other 90% of cells, and the need to specifically target technologies, and measurement and imaging capabilities to that immunology.
“That really has very different complexity of scale in terms of size, the time over which we were trying to measure it, and the sensitivity, and specificity,” Mark said.
Networks of neurons need to be measured over millisecond time scales to watch their activity. “Whereas, with immunology, you really need to watch single cells perform functions from a minute to an hour to a day,” said Mark.
“And that presents very very different types of technological challenges, and that’s where CNBP tech comes to the fore.”
Mark told the symposium that he believed past collaborations between neuronal researchers to understand measurements of the immunological systems had failed because of a mismatch of collaborations had been transactional, without researchers truly understanding each others’ disciplines.
“And that doesn’t work, because you end up with the physicist or a chemist doing something, and maybe publishing it and the biologist doesn’t actually benefit from the gain of the new knowledge of the measurement,” said Mark.
“The difference about the CNBP, is that we do that true trans-disciplinary work where we then take the fundamental science and in a two-way relationship we build that up into the technology, and actually then use it.”
Mark highlighted the CNBP’s work with nanoparticles and microscopy, fibre measurement and spectral imaging projects as well as discussing the recent discovery of uSEE microscopy that allows researchers to use a confocal microscope, found in all labs, to achieve super resolution.
That was received with interest by the attendees, he said.
“It was really interesting to see people grasp that idea in the audience because usually it’s a job requiring a multi-million dollar set-up, whereas this means you can buy a $10,000 laser, and suddenly your off-the-shelf confocal turns into a super resolution multi-million dollar equivalent.”
The session, was chaired by Professor Keith W. Kelley of the University of Illinois, a pioneer in research into brain immunology and former Chief Editor of Brain, Behavior and Immunity.
Associate Professor Elisa Yardin-Hill, from RMIT, spoke about her work on gut microbiome interactions with neuronal systems and the possible links to spectrum disorders such as autism, while CNBP Associate Investigator A/Prof Sarah Spencer, also from RMIT, presented on her work exploring the role of microglia in brain function, and about immune brain’s role in cognition.
They were joined by Dr Suzi Hong of University of California San Diego who spoke about the psychiatric disorders, and the ability to predict psychiatric human disorders from peripheral blood responses.