BioZone researchers come together from the faculties of Science, Engineering and Mathematical Sciences and Health and Medical Sciences.
Professor Charles Bond
Professor Charles Bond is a structural biologist and wants to understand how the spatial arrangement of biological molecules in complexes dictates their biological function. He is particularly interested in protein:nucleic acid interactions, and their functions in gene regulatory complexes in eukaryotes.
Structural biology sits at the intersection of biology, chemistry, physics, computation and visualisation, offering great opportunities for multidisciplinary work all within one lab! As a structural biologist, Charlie studies the three dimensional structure of biological molecules, such as nucleic acids and proteins, which helps to explain how the molecules function. The applications of his studies are very broad and far reaching. Protein structures can be used as a basis to design drugs to treat infectious diseases, and researching how proteins contribute to errors in DNA and RNA expression increases our understanding of how cancers and other disorders are caused, and how they might be treated.
He loves collaborating, combining his expertise in crystallography, bioinformatics, biochemistry and molecular biology, with experts in cell biology and other biophysical techniques.
Dr Yu Suk Choi
Yu Suk’s research focus is in controlling stem cell fate by providing different microenvironments. The fate of stem cells were thought to primarily be dictated by biochemical signals including cytokines and growth factors for decades, however, more recent data suggested stem cells also responded to their neighbouring cells and extracellular matrices (ECMs).
Previously, he has shown that stem cells from fat (adipose-derived stem cells – ASCs) were able to feel/sense and respond (mechanosense) to matrices mimicked stiffness of brain, skeletal muscle, and bone and committed to differentiate into those tissue lineages, respectively. Intracellularly, stem cells transduce these biophysical/mechanical signals into biochemical signals from cell membrane to nucleus and this process is called mechanotransduction.
Yu Suk's group aims to study how mechanical cues (especially stiffness) control stem cells by focusing on 3 areas:
- investigating intracellular mechanism how stem cells respond to ECM mechanical cues
- developing bio-inspired ECM (2D and 3D biomaterials) as platforms to control stem cell fate
- programming stem cells to be used in stem cell therapy, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine
Dr Barry Doyle
The focus of Barry’s research is the use of computational and experimental techniques to further our understanding of vascular physiology and disease. This includes research into aortic aneurysms and the development of new predictive tools to determine aneurysm rupture risk through computational biomechanics. Computational and experimental methods are applied to many different forms of cardiovascular health and disease, using cutting-edge engineering techniques to better understand vascular physiology and treat disease.
A global disease requires a global network of colleagues.
Therefore, this work is done alongside clinicians, biologists, medical physicists and other engineers where the aim is to further understand cardiovascular disease development to develop new tools to treat disease. Projects range from investigating the haemodynamics within the vasculature of healthy mouse placenta, to the development of thrombus in huge aortic aneurysms.
A major aspect of his research is patient-specific modelling, primarily the application of fluid and solid computational mechanics to simulate 3D patient-specific blood flow and stresses in vivo. He is also active in 3D bioprinting with a view to one day printing living medical devices for implantation.
Winthrop Professor Daniel John Green
Utilising transdisciplinary research partnerships between science, engineering and medicine, Professor Daniel Green’s group aims to invent ways to detect incipient cardiovascular disease at the earliest possible stage, to identify and optimise lifestyle interventions to prevent clinical manifestation of chronic diseases in humans, and to develop personalised, targeted and evidence-based interventions to optimise disease prevention.
His research encompasses the lifespan; from prevention of the development of atherosclerosis in obese and diabetic children and adolescents, to research on the best combination of exercise and medications in the management of patients with hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, coronary disease and heart failure patients awaiting transplantation.
Current areas of research include the effects of exercise on arteries supplying the brain, in the context of prevention of cognitive decline; testosterone and exercise in older men in relation to cardiovascular and stroke risk; platelet function, exercise and cardiovascular risk; and how exercise and breaking up sitting time could benefit brain and cardiovascular function.
Many of these studies benefit from specific technologies invented and developed by Danny and his research team, including detailed analysis techniques for blood flow effects on the arterial wall.
He has established a Cardiovascular Research Group, with a busy, dedicated laboratory and a diverse team of postdoctoral and graduate students and staff from Australia, Europe and North America.
Dr Brendan Kennedy
The focus of Brendan’s research is optical communications systems and biomedical optics and develops new imaging techniques for clinical and biological applications. He is working on techniques to measure the elastic properties of tissue, the investigation of speckle phenomena related to optical coherence tomography and the development of optical coherence tomography system technology.
A key focus area is the development of optical elastography, a technique that forms images of tissue mechanical properties (elasticity) at micro-scale resolution for use in such activities as tumour margin assessment in breast-conserving surgery, biomaterials characterisation, tumour biology and vascular biology.
These interests lead to a focus on developing wearable biomedical optics devices, intraoperative surgical techniques, optical electrography and the measurement of tissue and cell mechanics. A current project involves developing new technology to help surgeons remove all traces of breast cancer.
Brendan’s other research interests include developing small footprint imaging and sensing for healthcare solutions in remote areas and for wearable devices.
He is also actively engaged in the development of convergent approaches to research.
Associate Professor Kevin Pfleger
Associate Professor Kevin Pfleger’s research focuses on the study of receptors, large molecules (proteins) on the surface of our cells that bind many different hormones, neurotransmitters and pharmaceuticals and transfer the resultant signal into the cell. Until recently, drug discovery and development programs considered many of these receptors in isolation and in terms of only activating a single signalling pathway.
However, it is now clear that this approach dramatically underestimates the complexity of receptor signalling. Receptors function in combination with other receptors, and this changes how they work. Many drugs targeting these receptors have unexplained side effects due to a lack of understanding of their mechanism of action at the molecular level.
By understanding the complexities of pharmacology at the molecular level, Kevin’s objective is to develop improved treatments and better clinical management for a range of conditions, focusing on kidney disorders, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Kevin is strongly committed to the translation of research into clinical practice. He is Chief Scientific Advisor of Dimerix Limited, an ASX-listed spin-out company. Dimerix Limited is a clinical stage, biotechnology company that is focused on developing new therapeutics discovered using its proprietary drug development platform, Receptor-Heteromer Investigation Technology (HIT).
Associate Professor Jane Pillow
Associate Professor Jane Pillow’s research interests evolve from her determination to improve the respiratory outcomes of preterm infants through development and enhanced understanding of novel approaches to mechanical ventilation and postnatal care.
Although mechanical ventilation may be lifesaving, some infants develop very severe and progressive lung disease, partly as a result of injury and inflammation in the lung resulting from the mechanical ventilation. Giving steroids to infants with severe lung disease helps to resolve the inflammation and improve the lung enough that the baby can breathe on his own without help. However, both steroids and long periods on breathing machines may interfere with normal brain development.
Jane’s team focuses on the cardiorespiratory and neurodevelopmental outcomes, as the former often determines survival, and both outcomes have major implications for quality (and quantity) of life. Very premature infants are more likely to be rated as having externalising behaviour and attention problems. Lung and heart disease may predispose the infant to life-threatening chest complications whilst the failure of lung development may compromise breathing capacity in later life.
She uses a preterm lamb study to help clinicians understand the long-term risks and benefits of giving steroids to preterm human infants.
Dr Jennifer Rodger
The brain works by passing electrical impulses between nerve cells. Human brains are very different (individual variability) and therefore it is difficult to know how to approach fixing them when they are damaged.
Jenny develops and tests new devices that use electromagnetic stimulation to change these electrical impulses and modify how the brain works. Her goal is to be able to change the electrical impulses in specific parts of the brain that may be abnormal or injured. This approach may provide effective treatments for a range of neurological and psychiatric conditions including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, depression and autism.
She leads a research team investigating issues of brain plasticity relevant to brain disorders and employs various experimental models, especially the visual system, to ascertain how morphological and functional improvement can be achieved in the injured brain. Her most recent work focuses on the use of pulsed magnetic fields to promote neural circuit reorganisation and repair.
Her research uses animal and in vitro models to determine the precise impact of electromagnetic stimulation on single brain cells, simple neural circuits and complex circuits that underpin behaviours. In this way, she will gain a better understanding of how brain stimulation treatments can be tailored to individuals and individual disorders.
Associate Professor Michael Rosenberg
Michael is a health promotion researcher with a focus on program evaluation, physical activity and young people. He spends his time trying to influence people to make healthier choices and enjoy the positive benefits that a healthy lifestyle can afford.
Much of his attention has been focused at the measurement, monitoring and intervening at the population level amongst children, adults, disadvantaged populations in places where they work, live and play.
Over the last several years, he has focussed upon using technology to bring personal and population health closer together.
Most of his time is now spent with engineers, computer scientists and physicists discussing how the power of modern mobile and sensor devices that continuously measure a range of health related behaviours can be used to promote better health choices for individuals in real time and inform government and policy makers on where best to invest public resources for better health outcomes.
His research projects include the development of a health rating scale for active video games, the use of computer vision in assessing children's fundamental movement skills, the use of tailored music based mobile phone application to improve motor control, the development of an RFID sensor system to measure children's indoor sedentary time and the translation of all this technology into several school and community based programs to improve the health of children.
Associate Professor Tim Sercombe
Selective Laser Melting (SLM) is one of the more important 3D Printing technologies as it is able to produce parts in a range of common engineering metals and alloys. During the process, metal powder is melted using a high intensity infrared laser beam that traces the geometry of each layer. The part bed descends and a fresh layer of powder is deposited on top and the process continues.
Theoretically, parts of any geometry constructed from any metal can be processed via SLM. This technology is now able to produce patient-specific devices which simultaneously matches the external shape of the bone it is replacing and has an internal architecture which promotes healing; this would help reduce the pain and suffering experienced by these patients.
Some of the key questions that we are currently attempting to answer revolve around what is the ideal porous structure that will maximise bone ingrowth and how we can take advantage of the latest generation of low stiffness titanium alloys to produce implants with enhanced properties.
Another area of research is 3D Bioprinting, which couples 3D printing technologies with tissue engineering with the aim of producing living structures that will be used to help the body regenerate from disease or injury.
The ultimate goal of this is the printing of fully functioning organs. But there is a huge amount of work to be done to get to this stage.
One of the key stepping stones in the journey to fully functioning organs is the ability to produce organoids – small scale organ-like tissue that has a realistic micro-anatomy. These will be then able to be used to help us understand the causes of disease and to develop enhanced treatments.