#WorldHealthDay: Imaging unlocking research to keep people healthy

#WorldHealthDay: As Australia’s advanced imaging network, we’re focused on addressing national science and research priorities to help keep people healthy. Our expertise, equipment and services are critical to Australia’s ability to translate health discoveries, undertake clinical trials and commercialise medical products.

The importance of protecting Australians from health threats is critical, as is Australia’s strong medical research capability and reputation for quality and standards.

The National Imaging Facility is unlocking solutions to the world’s biggest imaging challenges across commercial, clinical and research fields. We have helped Australians innovate in fields such as bioengineering, clinical science, biology, medical technology, pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical therapies.

Thousands of scientists, doctors, and professionals across hundreds of Australian institutions, companies and research organisations use our work to help answer their medical research questions. We also work with engaged volunteers and patients who make a valuable contribution to health and discovery by being part of research.

We’ve included some examples of the medical projects we’re proud to have partnered with to keep people healthy below:

Dr Ciara Duffy from Western Australia’s Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research imaging the investigation of honeybee venom to treat breast cancer cells at the University of Western Australia’s Centre for Microscopy, Characterisation and Analysis in collaboration with Microscopy Australia

Associate Professor David Parsons and Dr Martin Donnelly performing preclinical testing of a ground-breaking and simple to use ‘field ventilator’ that can be locally produced at a low cost from easily acquired parts at SAHMRI, in collaboration with 4DMedical, and the University of Adelaide

Supporting Australian trials of Biogen’s Aducanumab (Aduhelm), the first disease modifying therapy for Alzheimer’s disease approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with the University of Melbourne, Herston Imaging Research Facility, the Hunter Medical Research Institute, Australian Imaging Biomarkers and Lifestyle Study of Ageing at The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health and Austin Health

#ImagingTheFuture Week: Unlocking solutions to major health challenges

#ImagingTheFuture Week: Unlocking solutions to major health challenges


Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s (CZI) Imaging the Future Week puts a spotlight on the significance of imaging science in biomedicine, and the importance of building a vibrant imaging community across the world to tackle these challenges at scale.

Imaging science and the highly skilled researchers behind it are vital to addressing global health challenges, and driving innovation in disease management, prevention, and cure.

The National Imaging Facility (NIF) invests in state-of-the-art equipment and partners with world-class experts to process and interpret data and apply imaging to solve challenging health problems.

CEO Prof Wojtek Goscinski said he was proud of the NIF’s partnerships which enable the translation of discoveries through to real world applications to improve the health of the population.

“Advanced imaging techniques make it possible to deepen our understanding of health and disease in the human body through visualisation,” Prof Goscinski said.

“Imaging already plays a critical role in healthcare, and the acceleration of its advancements in biomedicine are positioning us, and our colleagues world-wide to continue this work well into the future.”

“We are supportive of the efforts of CZI and I’m excited for NIF to work alongside them and our other international imaging colleagues, building a cutting-edge imaging community at the forefront of global imaging research,” Prof Goscinski said.

You can find out more about Imaging the Future Week here.

Keep scrolling to check out some of the impressive imaging work from a few of the Australian National Imaging Facility’s Nodes.

Time-of-flight angiography of the human brain using 7 Tesla MRI – courtesy of the Centre for Advanced Imaging, University of Queensland

Human Tooth CT scan – courtesy of Diana Patalwala, University of Western Australia

Angiogram scanned on the Siemens 3T Skyra magnet – courtesy of the Large Animal Research and Imaging Facility, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute

Tractography template image of a sham rat – courtesy of David Wright, The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health

fMRI Short Course at UQ

From Friday 20th – Sunday 22nd November 2020, a broad audience of PhD students, postdocs, associate professors, a radiographer and a clinician attended the University of Queensland (UQ) Centre for Advanced Imaging (CAI) functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) short course.

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Creating a Lizard Brain Atlas

Until recently, reptilian evolutionary studies lacked an important resource – a lizard brain atlas. As the subject of numerous ecological and behavioural studies, the Australian tawny dragon (Agamidae: Ctenophorus decresii) was an ideal candidate for creating a high-resolution MRI atlas of a representative scaled reptile (squamata). Such data is not only a resource for studies of the genus but also informs environmental decision making through an improved understanding of animal adaptation and evolution.

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National Preclinical PET QA

The NIF Molecular Imaging & Radiochemistry (MIR) Theme is a group of NIF Fellows, Directors, and users of NIF facilities that focus on state-of-the-art radiochemistry and molecular imaging applications using PET, SPECT, and MRI.

Integrating preclinical PET systems into a national resource requires the development of defined QA programs to monitor and integrate the data from individual systems. Hence, the MIR Theme initiated a national quality assurance (QA) program for the NIF preclinical PET instruments.

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PET training for HDR

From July 14 – 17, four CIBIT HDR students, Saikat Ghosh, Vanessa Soh, Pragalath Sadasivam and Ting Xiang Lim, attended an in-depth training session on PET imaging. Run by Dr Karine Mardon, NIF Facility Fellow and Molecular Imaging Facility Manager at the Centre for Advanced Imaging, the course covered both molecular imaging theory and practical hands-on training relevant to the students’ research projects. 

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Detecting atherothrombosis using targeted MRI

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is responsible for more than a quarter of all deaths in Australia and remains the global leading cause of death accounting for 17.9 million deaths per year. Of all CVDs, stroke and coronary artery disease account for the majority of deaths. A common underlying cause in these conditions in atherosclerosis, characterised by the build-up of abnormal deposits inside the arteries. Atherosclerotic plaques can rupture and cause thrombosis, or blood clots, resulting in stroke and myocardial infarction. Diagnostic strategies for the detection of thrombi are currently invasive and may not be sensitive to early biomarkers such as localised coagulation and inflammation.

A/Prof Ta, of Griffith University, has teamed up with researchers across Australia and internationally to develop a new form of MRI contrast agent. These ultra-small dual positive and negative contrast iron oxide nanoparticles (DCIONs) provide both T1-positive and T2-negative contrast effects, overcoming the limitations of single modality contrast agents. This duality is particularly important for imaging intravascular thromboses, as current single-contrast nanoparticles results in a black dye against a black artery. Further, the DCIONs are monodisperse, water-soluble, and biocompatible, of critical importance to biomedical applications.

In-vivo MRI of carotid artery thrombus (green arrows) detection after injection with a conjugated DCION. Image from Ta et al 2017.

Using non-invasive MRI at the NIF QLD Node, the application of a DCION conjugated to an enzyme found in activated platelets demonstrated accurate and sensitive detection of intravascular thrombosis. Work is continuing to further optimise the early detection of thrombi, expected to allow for earlier and more effective preventative treatments and improved clinical outcomes for patients at risk of stroke and myocardial infarction.

A/Prof Ta is enthusiastic about the future applications of DCIONs beyond thrombosis diagnoses, stating that “these nanoparticles have the potential to replace traditional gadolinium-based contrast agents due to their stronger T1 contrast effect. Existing alternatives cannot do what these nanoparticles can.”

If you have any concerns about heart disease or atherosclerosis, please talk to your GP and check this website.

Nighttime vision of the Australian Night Parrot

NIF Facility Fellow Dr Karine Mardon used CT to scan the intact skull of an exceedingly rare species, the Australian Night Parrot. These scans were compared to related parrots, finding that the night parrot may not be any better at seeing in the dark than other related species. Possibly a contributing factor to its rarity, these findings have implications for Night Parrot conservation efforts in the Australian outback.

Mysterious Australian Night Parrots in natural environment. Credit: Steve Murphy, Charles Darwin University.

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