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Major funding for world-leading brain and stomach research

Major funding for world-leading brain and stomach research announced

University of Auckland researchers investigating scientifically advanced treatment for children with water on the brain and for people suffering from stomach dysrhythmias have received substantial new funding from the Health Research Council.

University of Auckland researchers investigating scientifically advanced treatment for children with water on the brain and for people suffering from stomach dysrhythmias have received substantial new funding from the Health Research Council.

Professor Simon Malpas and Associate Professor Leo Cheng of the Auckland Bioengineering Institute both receive $1.18 million to develop major new treatment and diagnostic tools for water on the brain (hydrocephalus) and stomach motility disorders.

Professor Malpas and his team of bio-engineers are developing a tiny implant device that can transmit information on the surgically-inserted shunts that are used to drain water from the brain to the stomach. At present, around half of all shunts fail within two years.

The new device wirelessly senses and transmits both pressure and temperature information from inside a person’s brain to help monitor the fluid flowing through the shunt. This would reduce stress and radiation exposure for patients because they will not need costly CT or MRI scans.

“This project is probably the most exciting I have been involved with, particularly as it is a device that will be used to treat children and with this new funding, has the potential to go all the way through to clinical trial,” Professor Malpas says.

Associate Professor Leo Cheng says the new funding is critical to the world-leading work being done in New Zealand in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic and the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the US. The research concerns the body’s naturally-occurring electrical activity that regulates stomach contractions. Dysrhythmias of the stomach are associated with common and significant diseases such as dyspepsia, or indigestion, and gastroparesis which is thought to be closely linked to diabetes. Both conditions are often the result of post-operative complications from stomach surgery.

The new funding for Associate Professor Cheng’s research will be used to develop new and innovative recording technologies and integrate them with advanced signalling technology to allow accurate identification of the disorder and better treatment. The new technologies are much less invasive than those currently available.

“While cardiac, or heart, dysrhythmia is fairly well known, this is a similar condition of the stomach but this is an emerging field and is very new and very exciting,” Associate Professor Cheng says.


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