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Research Investigates Newborn/Elderly Disease

New Research Collaboration Investigates Disease In Newborn And Elderly

The University of Otago’s Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences’ 30 year expertise in free radical research will be a vital component of a new collaborative Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE), recently backed by major Government funding.

The Free Radical Research Group’s involvement, as part of the National Research Centre for Growth and Development (NRCGD), will be officially launched by the Associate Minister of Education, Steve Maharey, on Wednesday October 13, at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

The NRCGD will investigate how events that occur around birth can cause brain injury in the new-born, and diseases that may not become evident until later in life. It will also look at the reasons behind adult neuro-degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

It is one of seven CoRE groups set up by the Government to develop and enhance leading-edge University research, at a cost of $123 million over the next six years.

Attending this opening will be the Director of the Liggins’ Institute at the University of Auckland and head of the NRCGD, Professor Peter Gluckman, and the Centre’s Board. Representatives from other collaborating institutions, the University of Otago, Massey University, and AgResearch will also attend.

The Director of the Free Radical Research Group, Professor Christine Winterbourn says being chosen to be part of a New Zealand Centre of Research Excellence has been a significant boost for researchers in her team, and the University of Otago.

“It’s an exciting time for us to be part of a well funded national collaborative effort in medical science, which also has clinical application. There will be powerful scientific synergies and advantages working together on vital scientific issues related to the growth and development of life,” she says.

It’s well established that free radicals are important in the development of disease, and the Christchurch Group’s international reputation in this area means it will play a significant role in this collaborative research effort across five sites in New Zealand.

“Our particular focus will be on brain injury, examining how destructive free radicals and oxidative stress in the foetus and new-born relate to that condition, and also their role in later life with the onset of neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. We’ll also be examining the importance of anti-oxidants in protecting against injury, both in the new-born and the ageing brain.”

The Free Radical Research Group will be applying its expertise in biochemistry, and relating this to research being done at other sites in N.Z. Much of the research at the School will be carried out using a new half million dollar mass spectrometer machine provided by CoRE funding.

Funding for this research has been provided through the Tertiary Education Commission and is expected to run for six years in the first instance. The launch will take place in the foyer of the School at 5.30pm. There will also be a tour of the laboratory facilities for the Minister, invited guests, and the media.

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