Charles Perkins Centre enters first growth phase

26 June 2014

Honours student Thomas Hambly prepares cDNA samples in the Charles Perkins Centre wet lab

As the second wave of researchers settles in to the Charles Perkins Centre research and education hub this week, research is already underway in the state-of-the-art wet labs and students have just wrapped up their first semester of work.

Associate Professor Paul Witting and the Redox Biology Group, including honours student Thomas Hambly (pictured above), were among the first researchers to move into the facilities in mid-May. With more researchers relocating in coming months, Paul and his group are looking forward to connecting with other disciplines and finding new ways to solve some of the world's biggest health problems.

"Our research focuses on the end point of acute events such as heart attacks and strokes, in particular how we might make life more bearable for people in the post-event, recovery phase," says Paul.

"Previously I had to travel to other areas of the University to interact with people in my area of research, but working in the hub in the cardiovascular area means we can benefit from more direct access to like-minded researchers.

"The plan is to have in-house meetings and presentations specifically along thematic lines, which means you not only get that interaction directly with what you're interested in, but you can also tap into an aggregation of researchers and teachers with different expertise."

As well as finding new ways of collaborating, Paul is looking forward to utilising the shared research infrastructure at the hub, particularly the imaging facilities. He hopes that advanced imaging technology will allow them to test antioxidant interventions following heart attacks to bring the heart back to normal function more rapidly.

"The idea would be to then translate these solutions into clinical settings, where people would recover faster and experience fewer cardiovascular complications after a heart attack or stroke."

Researchers are not the only ones set to make new discoveries in the hub. Students recently gained access to the X-lab PC2 facility for the first time as part of the third-year Advanced Human Cellular Physiology: Research class, growing living, beating cells under the supervision of senior lecturer Dr Stuart Fraser.

"We have been able to generate beautiful heart muscle cells which are beating away spontaneously, as well as blood cells, skin cells and some neurons too," Stuart says.

According to Stuart, the new lab setting has been great for both students and teachers, with new and improved equipment such as bigger cell culture hoods, imaging stations, inverted microscopes, high-res cameras and advanced incubators presenting a huge scope of possibilities for teaching and learning.

"Students also generated 'macrophages', cells of the immune system which clear pathogens as well as our own dead cells. Next semester we're hoping to perform 3D printing of cells to form more complex structures such as tissues and organs."

The wrap up of Semester One concludes an exciting month of milestones for the Charles Perkins Centre, which has been celebrated at a series of events including the staff and student open day and its official opening in June. Find out more about current research projects and take a virtual tour of the building on the recently updated Charles Perkins Centre website.

Support for researchers who are relocating to the hub, including a moving schedule, packing and unpacking information and key contact details are available on the Charles Perkins Centre intranet.

"The new labs are amazing! All the equipment works seamlessly and there is so much space," says third-year student Fei Xue Jin (pictured right, with senior lecturer Dr Stuart Fraser)

Macrophages (cells of the immune system) generated by Advanced Human Cellular Physiology: Research students. The macrophages have grabbed, and are trying to destroy, small plastic beads