Neurosurgery Chair Campaign launched in glittering style!

The evening of Tuesday 17 September saw the launch of CBR’s campaign to fund a Professorial Chair in Neurosurgery, to increase our linkages with Auckland District Health Board, and to foster reciprocal knowledge transfer between clinical discipline and academic research in this crucial area.  In recognition of their generous seeding gift of $2 million toward the campaign, the Chair will be named “The Freemasons Chair of Neurosurgery at the University of Auckland”

To read more about the campaign, and what its supporters have to say about it, click on the following link: http://www.fmhs.auckland.ac.nz/faculty/newsandevents/new_news_details.aspx?Id=1106

Professor Richard Faull with campaign drivers Dame Jenny Gibbs (L) and Dame Rosie Horton (R)

Professor Richard Faull with campaign drivers Dame Jenny Gibbs (L) and Dame Rosie Horton (R)

Former 'Fair Go' presenter Kevin Milne was the MC for the launch function.

Former ‘Fair Go’ presenter Kevin Milne was the MC for the launch function.

Vicki Lee and Tim Edmonds of Cure Kids NZ, with All Blacks Steven Luatua (L) and Charles Piutau (R)

Vicki Lee and Tim Edmonds of Cure Kids NZ, with All Blacks Steven Luatua (L) and Charles Piutau (R)

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CBR in the News!

The Centre for Brain Research has been getting in the news this week – for all the right reasons!

On Wednesday 17th July, Professor Richard Faull was interviewed by Kathryn Ryan on Radio New Zealand’s ‘Nine to Noon’ programme, discussing the discovery of stem cells within the brain, and the controversy this finding caused in the research world.  They also cover the evolution of the Neurological Foundation Human Brain Bank, and the links it creates and maintains with clinician, community, and the families of those affected by neurological disease.  You can listen to a recording of the interview here: http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player/2562370

Later in the day, Professor Faull also featured on on Sky Sports’ ‘Deaker on Sport’ programme, talking with Murray Deaker and neurologist Rosamund Hill about concussion and our growing understanding of its long-term effects – always a relevant issue in our sport-focused nation.

A breakthrough in understanding the behaviour of stem cells as they ‘bed down’ in their destination within the brain has lead to media exposure for Dr Maurice Curtis and his lab, with a report on their latest research appearing in the New Zealand Herald.   Read the full article here: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/science/news/article.cfm?c_id=82&objectid=10899554

New understanding of brain injury in preterm infants

 A study conducted by Dr Justin Dean in the Centre for Brain Research has resulted in findings with the potential to prevent or reverse serious disabilities in children born prematurely.

 The research was performed as part of Dr Dean’s postdoctoral research at the Oregon Health and Science University’s Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in the USA. Published online in the 16 January issue of Science Translational Medicine, the study is challenging the way paediatric neurologists and scientists think about brain injury in preterm infants. Specifically, it overturns the long-held belief that low blood flow to the developing brain causes death of neurons.

“The investigation has shown that brain injury in preterm born babies is not necessarily irreversible, as was previously thought”, says Dr Justin Dean from the University of Auckland’s Department of Physiology and Centre for Brain Research, who is first author for the study.

“Neuronal cells in the cortex of the brain play an important role in thinking or cognition. Loss of these cells can severely impact on normal brain function. It was very surprising to find that neurons were not actually killed in the preterm brain. Rather these cells did not develop or mature as they should, and they had less connections to other cells.”

“This finding has changed the way that we consider the cognitive and learning disabilities occur in preterm babies.”

“This opens new avenues for potential therapies to promote regeneration and repair of the premature brain.”

Lead investigator, Stephen Back, Professor of Paediatrics and neurology at OHSU, says: “As neurologists, we thought that ischemia killed the neurons and that they were irreversibly lost from the brain. But this new data challenges that notion by showing that ischemia, or low blood flow to the brain, can alter the maturation of the neurons without causing the death of these cells.

“As a result, we can focus greater attention on developing the right interventions, at the right time early in development, to promote neurons to more fully mature and reduce the often serious impact of preterm birth. This is a much more hopeful scenario.”

In studies using new MRI technology that allows injury to the developing brain to be identified much earlier than was previously feasible, the researchers looked at the cerebral cortex, or “thinking” part of the brain, which controls the complex tasks involved with learning, attention and social behaviours that are frequently impaired in children who survive preterm birth.

Specifically, they observed how brain injury in the cerebral cortex evolved over time and found no evidence that cells were dying or being lost. They did notice, however, that more brain cells were packed in to a smaller volume of brain tissue, which led, upon further examination, to the discovery that the brain cells were not fully mature.

Dr Dean says the findings are particularly exciting when looked at in association with a related study, published in the same online issue of Science Translational Medicine, in which investigators at the Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto studied 95 premature infants using MRI.

“These researchers found similar MRI abnormalities in the cortex of preterm born babies to those observed in our experimental studies. Impaired growth of these babies was also the strongest predictor of these MRI abnormalities. This suggests that improving neonatal growth may allow normal development and growth of the cortex, which may reduce neurological deficits associated with preterm birth.”

“In New Zealand around 500 babies are born prematurely every year, and between 25 and 50 percent of children born prematurely develop deficits in behaviour, learning and cognition by school age,” says Dr Dean. “These two studies, taken together, provide important directions for further research into the early identification of at risk infants and potential therapies that may make a difference to neurological outcome for these children.”