It’s not often that medical studies into better brain surgery can end up leading to lamb roasts that are a cut above. But that’s what research by Prof Robert McLaughlin‘s team at the Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) is doing.
‘I was telling Meat & Livestock Australia that we had this tiny camera in a needle that is great at seeing fat in tissue, but there aren’t many diseases where this is useful. And they got really excited,’ he said. ‘It turns out that the single biggest indicator of quality in lamb meat is the percentage of fat.’ Continue reading →
Professor Dennis Matthews is one of CNBP’s oldest friends, having been coming to Australia from his home in California each year for nearly seven years as a member of its International Science Committee.
“I’ve actually been coming here since before the CNBP inception. They were just getting their act together for the initial grant when I first visited,” he says.
Professor Matthews was trained as physicist, but for most of his working life he has been involved in the development of medical devices.
His multidisciplinary life is reflected in his position as professor at University of California Davis in both the Department of Neurological Surgery and the College of Engineering. He was at one time also director of UC Davis’ Center for Biophotonics, Science, and Technology.
“I was hired into the neurological department not because I knew anything about neurosurgery but because they wanted their physicians to have more opportunity to do early stage research, even before it could be translated to the clinic,” he says.
He “abandoned physics 30 or 40 years ago”, drawn to things that were more hands-on and, around that time, he met a medical doctor who wanted to develop better instrumentation.
“I told him I didn’t know anything about medicine so he should go away. But he didn’t.”
That started a long history of working with doctors and bioscientists to develop technology that helped in their work.
“Biological scientists are incredibly smart at what they do but they are not so smart at measuring it,” he says.
“I don’t know what their problems are, of course, so they tell me what they are trying to achieve and I tell them ways to get at the solutions to their problems – and we help each other along the way.
“What I like about it, and CNBP works very nicely in this respect, is that you ‘bootstrap’ it. I tell the bioscientists I can do something but I’m not quite sure I know how to do it. So they challenge me to make technology progress at the same time.”
He believes CNBP has some unique strengths – “I wouldn’t travel around 13,000km to come here otherwise”.
He was first introduced to the centre by the inaugural director, Professor Tanya Munro. “I thought she had an extremely good vision of where all this could go and perhaps an even better way of communicating that vision.” Since then, he says, current director Professor Mark Hutchinson has emerged as an incredible thought leader as well.
Professor Matthews says he likes the way the CNBP brings themes together and its “Mission Impossible” approach to throwing multidisciplinary teams of experts at problems.
As a technologist he was also drawn to the IPAS fibre optics group, and the way it was developing fibre sensors to interrogate places that might otherwise be invisible.
Two biological research themes particularly interested him.
“Many of the things here are important to me but there were two that were exceptional and that was Mark’s [Hutchinson] work on neuroscience applied to pain, and particularly his interest in developing a “painometer”.
He was also attracted to the IVF research under Chief Investigator Professor Jeremy Thompson.
“My daughter had two children by IVF and so my interests were already a bit piqued. But I was also interested to see if we could make the whole thing work better.”
Secondly was the possibility of making sure the highest quality embryos were developed and then implanted.
“That whole notion was extremely fascinating and provocative to me,” he says. “I think that we are going to learn how to make embryos healthier in normal conception. And if we can make the healthiest baby possible it can lead to a lifetime of good health.”
Personal experience also lay at the heart of his interest in Professor Hutchinson’s work on pain, which, while important to help people cope at a personal level, he sees as a potential solution to the opiate crisis.
“At the moment we are only delivering pain-masking drugs,” he says. “These powerful drugs don’t do anything except make people not care if they hurt – they still hurt.”
He is helping with the task of looking for biomarkers that might underpin such a measuring device.
“I think it’s possible, but I don’t know yet what the right measurements are,” Professor Matthews says. “And the problem with humans is there is no single recipe, so if we do get a panel of biomarkers that said my pain level was 6 it could be completely wrong for you.
“So we need some way to normalise it so we can say this is a baseline for an individual.”
Professor Matthews is particularly drawn to the CNBP’s focus on envisioning the ultimate translation of the technology.
“So instead of just filling the journals with more manuscripts it is also important in biosciences that you keep in mind that your work will, in the end, actually affect patients.
“The question we should always be asking is ‘how do we get doctors to have the latest technologies to work with?’.”
CNBP PhD Student Ms Yuan Qi Yeoh enjoyed a two week collaborative visit with Prof Xuefeng Guo’s team at Peking University. Working with Peking University PhD student Xinjiani Chen on a research project involving the molecular dynamics of the secondary structure of a cyclic photoswitchable peptide.
Yuan Qi had the opportunity to participate in the fabrication process of the single-molecule devices. Specifically, they carried out temperature-dependent experiments using their advanced facilities to probe the molecular dynamics of the secondary structure upon photoswitching.
Yuan Qi says that “It was a great opportunity to collaborate with colleagues at Peking University in such high impact research and enjoyed working in their sophisticated research labs”
The University of Colorado Boulder (CU) and the Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) have officially announced their research partnership status at a launch event that took place at CU today.
The collaboration between the CNBP, an Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence, and the University of Colorado Boulder, will explore the use of novel CNBP biophotonics tools and techniques to examine in real-time, neuroinflammatory processes that govern behavior.
The novel immune sensing technologies developed at CNBP will allow circuit-specific measurement of immune molecule release during stress-related paradigms in rodents performed at the University of Colorado Boulder.
The overarching goal of the collaboration is to better inform intervention efforts
focused on stress- and ageing-related diseases.
Partner Investigators at CU are Professor Steven Maier and Professor Linda Watkins with CU’s Dr Michael Baratta (the successful recipient of the CNBP-American Australian Association Fellowship in 2016), also working closely with this partnership.
Below: CNBP Director Prof Mark Hutchinson (left) presents a partner plaque to Partner Investigators – Professor Steven Maier and Professor Linda Watkins.
On a recent trip to China, CNBP Research Fellow A/Prof Guozhen Liu undertook a number of visits and talks, discussing her advanced sensing, nano-particle and bio-imaging work. This included:
5 May-8 May: Attendance at the International Congress on Analytical Sciences 2017 (ICAS2017) at Kaikou, China. Here Guozhen gave an oral presentation with the title “Engineering reduced graphen oxides towards a label-free electrochemical immunosensor for detection of tumor necrosis factor-alpha.”
11 May: Guozhen gave an invited talk titled, “Nanotools for cytokine monitoring in neuroscience” at Prof Zhihong Zhang’s research team at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan. Prof Zhang is one of CNBP’s Partner Investigators at HUST.
13-14 May: Guozhen provided a keynote speech, titled, “An optical fibre based ex-vivo device for detection of cytokines” at the 2nd International Congress on Biomedical Imaging and Signal Processing (ICBISP 2017) at Wuhan.
Centre personnel, laboratories and microscopes were on display at Macquarie University, Wednesday November 23rd, as guests from industry partner Olympus Australia took time out of their busy schedules to visit and to explore the latest in imaging developments taking place at the CNBP.
Hosted by CNBP node leader Prof Jim Piper and CNBP Associate Investigator Dr Yiqing Lu, Olympus Australia’s Kim Everuss (Sales Manager, MIS), Jian Shen (Marketing Manager, MIS), Chunsong Yan (Customer Experience Service Manager) and Clare Kelly (Product Manager specialising in confocal microscopy) were shown the latest in CNBP research, spoke with CNBP researchers and actively inspected tools and techniques related to the Centre’s luminescence related microscopy activity. Of particular focus was Centre work on a ‘plug and play’ time-gated imaging module that could be easily linked to current Olympus microscope setups.
Presentations from CNBP researchers also took place during the visit, outlining biological applications including biomedical diagnostics and drug delivery and leading edge research in the biology of pain.
Prof Jim Piper noted that the visit further cemented the fantastic relationship between the two organisations and that he looked forward to working closely with Olympus Australia with a view to facilitating industry-research benefits for both parties.
Below – CNBP Associate Investigator Dr Yiqing Lu explains the technology involved in the innovative time-gated imaging module.
Olympus LIVE hosted a workshop today, involving a group of Quantum Physics researchers and students from RMIT University and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP).
It was the first microscopy workshop of its kind involving Olympus, the University and Centre, giving students valuable exposure and hands-on experience with resident Olympus microscopy experts.
The initial planning for the event was coordinated by CNBP Chief Investigator Prof Andrew Greentree from RMIT University (pictured top left) and CNBP industry partner Mr Jian Shen from Olympus Australia. The day consisted of a training/education session that was part of the ‘Masters in Nanotechnology and Smart Materials’ course, which is in its first year at RMIT University.
The event was hosted by Olympus at their state of the art new facility at Notting Hill, Melbourne and included a theory session, hands on training on microscopes run by Olympus experts, and a tour of some of the facilities.
It is planned that this will become an annual event as part of the ‘Masters in Nanotechnology and Smart Materials’ course at RMIT.
Said Prof Greentree, “This is just another way that the Olympus/CNBP partnership is providing benefits above and beyond that of direct research.”
CNBP and the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology (IPHT) in Jena officially acknowledged their long term research and collaboration activity with a formal partnership launch today, taking place at IPHT HQ in Germany.
CNBP Deputy Director Prof Ewa Goldys, CNBP Macquarie University Node Leader Prof Jim Piper and CNBP RMIT University Node Leader A/Prof Brant Gibson were all in attendance at the event which was hosted and led by Partner, Prof Jurgen Popp from IPHT. CNBP’s Associate Investigator, Dr Stephen Warren-Smith who is just concluding his Marie Curie Fellowship with IPHT, and will be returning to the University of Adelaide after securing a Ramsay Fellowship, was also present and attended the program of the 3 day partner launch.
Included as a part of launch activity were presentations from both organisations, tours of IPHT laboratory space, research updates on key projects and engagement with CNBP industry partner Heraeus.
Specific highlights from the visit included the opening of the partner launch at the Scala Tower Restaurant in Jena with CNBP’s Prof Jim Piper presenting a keynote presentation, a tour of the InfectoGnostic Research Campus and a visit to Zeiss, concluding with a lecture from Prof Ewa Goldys.
Pictured top left is IPHT Partner, Prof Jurgen Popp being presented with the CNBP Partner Plaque by CNBP Deputy Director Prof Ewa Goldys.
The CNBP has officially launched an international research partnership with the University Health Network (Toronto) following a successful event, undertaken at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre on the 30th May 2016.
The partnership broadens the potential for research collaboration between the CNBP and the UHN as well as strengthens the current links and ties that already exist between the two organisations.
According to CNBP Director, Prof Mark Hutchinson, highlights from the day included an all day science workshop featuring plenty of opportunities for brainstorming between the teams researchers, as well as the identification of immediate opportunities for materials and sample sharing.
“Formalizing the partnership between the CNBP and the UHN makes perfect sense and will provide both organisations with improved opportunities and expertise in the undertaking of leading edge biophotonics research”, said Hutchinson.
Below, the formal handover of the CNBP partner plaque by CNBP Director Prof Mark Hutchinson (far right) to UHN’s Prof Brian Wilson (second right).