New separation science lab a game-changer for research

February 6, 2013

Examining the effects of methamphetamines on the brain, pesticide residues in breast milk and drug delivery efficiency in the body are just a few of the research projects benefiting from Murdoch University’s dynamic new Separation Science and Metabolomics Laboratory.

The state of the art lab is home to the latest ‘next generation’ mass spectrometry technology, including a Waters Imaging Mass Spectrometer and a Bruker EVOQ Elite tandem mass spectrometry system, the only machine of its kind in Australia, and one of only a handful in the Asia-Pacific region.

Director Professor Robert Trengove said the facility was allowing his team and their collaborators to do research in ways previously impossible, including advanced health research.

“We’re now able to get a holistic picture of how the body reacts and responds to chemical changes, instead of isolated pieces of the puzzle,” Professor Trengove said.

“For example, previous studies on methamphetamines would target something like dopamine and measure its reaction to the drug. Now we can measure not just dopamine but changes in all other chemical compounds simultaneously.

“This provides a much fuller picture of the complexity of the body – giving us a map of chemical pathways and revealing some real unknowns. Unexpected data has long provided some great leaps in science, so we see interesting times ahead.”

Professor Trengove said drug delivery was a key area going forward – working out where drugs and vaccines are actually going and metabolising in the body after being injected.

“A drug is only useful if it hits its target. We can now get a 3D analysis of any tissue in the body and test effectiveness, which is going to improve health outcomes for everyone,” he said.

Professor Trengove said the proximity of the new Fiona Stanley Hospital was already paying dividends.

“The new hospital is a major asset. Having the latest generation of equipment and our expertise puts us at the forefront for mass spectrometry, locally and nationally. We’re going to be home to a lot of clinical research going forward,” Professor Trengove said.

Among new projects being initiated is work with Professor Ralph Martins through The McCusker Alzheimer’s Research Foundation and work with the US Environmental Protection Agency.

The lab has benefited from $1 million in Murdoch University funding for refurbishment and equipment through the Australia Research Council’s Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) Funding and Bruker.

A partnership agreement is in place with The University of Western Australia, Curtin University and Edith Cowan University and the facility is expected to be fully operational by mid 2013.

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Comments (2 responses)

Katie Scott February 7, 2013

This sounds incredibly exciting!

Bob Mead February 8, 2013

This is one of the most exciting developments in the University. Not only does it help to underpin the strong links we have already established with hospital-based research teams in Perth, it dovetails perfectly with the University's Forensics program, graduates from which are now occupying numerous positions as toxicologists in the public and private sector. Rob and his team have done a great job in developing this Facility and it really helps to identify Murdoch as the primary institution for toxicological training at both the undergraduate and postgraduate level.

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