A new research facility located at Monash University will drive world-first research into the early detection of cardiac disease using ultra-sensitive biomedical imaging equipment supplied by Siemens.

Supported by a $7 million grant from the Victorian Government, the Monash Biomedical Imaging (MBI) centre was officially opened today by the Minister for Innovation, Services and Small Business, Louise Asher.

The facility features state-of-the-art Siemens equipment, including pre-clinical and clinical scanners, which will be pivotal in assessing how imaging can detect plaque formation in the carotid arteries of elderly patients.

MBI Director, Professor Gary Egan said the facility's unique co-location with the Australian Synchrotron Imaging and Medical Beam Line, enabled advanced imaging techniques to predict cardiac function and disease onset in the elderly.

“The research at MBI could result in ground-breaking discoveries that may lead to the early detection of markers associated with the prevention of neurological and cardiovascular diseases including stroke," Professor Egan said.

Professor Egan said the facility would provide coordinated access and operational support to biomedical imaging infrastructure, as well as research training and advanced technological development in close collaboration with researchers and industry partners including Siemens.

Vice-President of Siemens Healthcare, Richard Guest, said there was an increasing demand for collaborative treatments incorporating imaging and drug therapies to assist in the goal of advancing human health.

“There is a significant shift in medical research towards the use of highly advanced body imaging which literally provides clinicians with a virtual 3D replica of the cardiovascular system, to detect and prevent disease,” Richard Guest said.

“This partnership allows for Monash and Siemens to join forces to identify these key indicators. Using world-class technology increases the accuracy significantly and places Monash amongst the leading biomedical imaging research centres in the world,” Mr Guest said.

The opening of MBI marked the establishment of a new node of the Victorian Biomedical Imaging Capability (VBIC) – a collaboration between Monash University, Swinburne University, The University of Melbourne and the Florey Neuroscience Institute - which the State Government granted a further $8.5 million in support.

The Government also recently announced $26 million for a further four years of operational funding for the Australian Synchrotron facility at the Clayton campus.

The research into predictors of cardiac disease will be undertaken as a sub-study of the ASPirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly trial. 

The South Australian Government has announced $212.5 million in disability support, with $20 million being directed to fund the roll out of the Federal Government's National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Researchers at Switzerland’s Federal Polytechnic School have announced a breakthrough in spinal chord research after scientists restored voluntary lower body movement to a paralyzed rat.

The South Australian Government has outlined $30.4 million over four years for the development of a new digital system for pathology testing.

Funding of  $1.75 million has been awarded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to Professor Claude Bernard and his research team at Monash University to collaborate with researchers at the University of California on developing improved treatments for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) using a new adult stem cell technique. 

The South Australian Government has released five regional implementation plans that map out the state’s long-term priorities for health services in regional and rural South Australia. The five plans outline the first three years of action on the recommendations of individual Health Advisory Councils across the state.

A report released by the mental health advocacy group Inspire Foundation has found that mental illnesses in young men is costing the Australian economy $3 billon each year.

A research team led by Monash and Melbourne universities have discovered why people can develop life-threatening allergies following the treatment for conditions such as epilepsy and AIDS.

A new Australian study has confirmed the accuracy of a modern non-invasive cardiac output monitor that can replace a 40-year-old standard in this field.

The collaborative paper by researchers at The University of Queensland School of Medicine, the Florey Neuroscience Institute and the University of Melbourne compared the current accepted method of measuring cardiac output with a non-invasive accurate ultrasound monitor called USCOM.

The current gold standard cardiac monitor is the Pulmonary Artery Catheter (PAC), which involves insertion of a catheter into a patient's neck or groin.

The catheter is then positioned in their arteries through the heart before heating or cooling the blood.

Alternatively, the newer USCOM method simply involves placing a small ultrasound probe on the chest.

Professor Malcolm West, a Professor of Medicine at The University of Queensland School of Medicine and a paper co-author said: “The USCOM device is a simple method for accurately and non-invasively measuring central circulation a goal of cardiology for many years.

“To be non-invasive is a great advantage over the PAC.

“To be non-invasive and more accurate, means the device has the potential to change the way we approach management of many cardiovascular diseases including sepsis, heart failure and hypertension.”

Lead author, UQ School of Medicine PhD student Rob Phillips said the new study added to the growing global body of independent evidence which demonstrated that the USCOM device offered critical care clinicians a new gold standard for cardiovascular monitoring which could replace costly and dangerous catheter-based technologies.

“It confirms that the growing worldwide USCOM user base has the very best tool available to guide lifesaving cardiovascular treatments and improve the management of critical and widespread diseases,” Mr Phillips said.

The peer-reviewed paper was published recently in the Critical Care Research and Practice journal.

The researchers surgically implanted accurate measurement devices onto the great cardiac arteries, and then monitored their cardiac output using USCOM and PAC at rest and as medications were introduced.

They found that USCOM had a 1 per cent error compared with the surgical device, while the PAC error was 17 per cent, and that USCOM was six to eight times more accurate than the PAC for detecting changes associated with the common drugs used in cardiovascular management.

USCOM's non-invasive system uses external ultrasound similar to that used in pregnancy.

The ultrasound signal bounces off the red blood cells as they flow across the cardiac valves, the site of true cardiac output, and producing a unique echo from which the device then counts the cell echoes with extremely high accuracy allowing high fidelity cardiac output measurement.

Because of its accuracy the USCOM monitor is most useful for diagnosing circulatory abnormalities and guiding the standard interventions of fluid inotropes and vaso-active therapies.

The USCOM monitor has many clinical applications ranging from paediatrics, critical care, anaesthesia and emergency medicine.

New USCOM research is now being focused on improved understanding the great global healthcare challenges of sepsis, heart failure and hypertension, and their treatment.

Watch how it works: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOUr8WOfxrc&feature=player_embedded

Download paper - http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ccrp/2012/621496/

Patients given a clot-busting drug within six hours of a stroke are more likely to make a better recovery than those who do not receive the treatment, new research has found.

Bulk billing rates have reached a record high in the March quarter, with 81.2 of HP services being bulk billed.

A report published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has found that Australian children’s oral health as ‘improved markedly’ over the last 30 years.

The New South Wales Government has announced the formation of a new Mental Health Line to ensure that people with a mental health problem, their families and carers have access to a 24-hour support service.

The New South Wales Government has given planning approval for the construction on the new 50-bed mental health unit as part of the ongoing redevelopment of the wagga Wagga Base Hospital Redevelopment.

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek has announced that $50 million over two years will be made available to Medicare Locals – networks that support frontline health providers – to assist GPs and other health care providers to adopt and use the Gillard Government’s new eHealth records system.

Ms Plibersek said the funding was part of a package to support doctors and other health professionals to help rollout the new system.

“Family doctors co-ordinate healthcare for most patients, so we know they have an important role to play in the eHealth records system,” Ms Plibersek said.

“eHealth records will ensure doctors can access a patient’s medical information in one convenient online location, reducing errors and making diagnosis and treatment quicker and easier.”

Ms Plibersek said the funding for Medicare Locals will enable them to provide practical training to GP practices and other health care providers and to drive awareness and consumer literacy of the potential of eHealth records at a regional level.

“The practical training will include how to get the practice ready for the eHealth record including how to achieve data quality, the registration process for eHealth records, engagement and support of the practice’s patients.”

“To assist providers link up to the system, Medicare Locals also will work with other health care providers – allied health, nursing, and community based specialists – as well as with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, non-government organisations, professional associations and hospitals.”

The $50 million is the final piece of a support package for doctors to help rollout the new eHealth records system and is in addition to the Government’s $233.7 million investment announced in the Budget.

It complements the three other initiatives already announced, which are:

The Queensland Government has announced broad cuts to the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (QAHC), the state’s only LGBT health and wellbeing organisation.

The Western Australian Government has announced $58.5 million in child health spending to provide free health checks and increase access to school-based health services.

The Western Australian Government has announced $5 million over two years for the formation of a new Mental Health Court Division Program, that will cater for adults and children with mental illness facing criminal charges at Perth’s Magistrates’ Court and Children’s Court.

A Deakin University study, funded by VicHealth, shows significant economic savings and health benefits could be achieved if Australian adults cut their alcohol consumption by 3.4 litres a year.

A University of Queensland researcher has discovered nine new genes that drive the development of breast cancer, taking the tally of all genes associated with breast cancer development to 40.

Published recently in Nature journal, the study is part of an international initiative to sequence the genomes of a variety of cancers. Professor Sunil Lakhani from the UQ Centre for Clinical Research along with an international team of breast cancer researchers lead by Professor Michael Stratton (Sanger Institute, UK), examined all the genes in the genomes of 100 cases of breast cancer.

Professor Sunil Lakhani said mutated cancer-causing genes (called driver genes) were different in different cancer samples, indicating that breast cancer is genetically very diverse.

“Understanding the consequences of this diversity will be important in progressing towards more rational treatment,” Professor Lakhani said.

“The idea behind the work was to establish ‘the landscape' of genetic changes in breast cancer with a view to understanding which genes drive a breast cell to become cancerous.”

“Recently, we have begun to appreciate that breast cancer is not one disease but has several different subtypes. However, what the study shows is that the diversity and differences between patients is much greater than appreciated. Although 28 of the 100 cancers had a single driver mutation, some had as many as six. There were 40 different cancer genes implicated in the development of the cancer and in 73 different combinations – almost every cancer is therefore unique.”

“It is showing us that we will have to use broad information about cancer subtypes (as we do at present in the clinic) and combine it with the unique genomic features of each patients cancer in order to provide individualised treatment plans – which will be a challenge, but hopefully will also improve outcomes by providing new opportunities to target the mutations with specific drugs.”

The research was carried out at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, one of the world's leading genome centres, located in the UK.

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