HMRI has contributed to the establishment of several central resources which are greatly enhancing our capacity to conduct world class research.
The HMRI Clinical Research Centre
Located within the John Hunter Hospital, the HMRI Clinical Research Centre houses the laboratories of the Mothers and Babies Research Centre, the NBN Telethon Children’s Cancer Research Fellow and VIVA’s respiratory medicine research. HMRI has developed a clinical trials unit within the Clinical Research Centre providing a central location for resources, data gathering and storage for a variety of hospital based trials. Patients come to the unit to participate in research projects. The Research Centre also contains shared facilities including a micro-biology and virology laboratories and general purpose areas such as sterilisation units, offices and a seminar room.
The HMRI Research Register
In June 2005 HMRI launched the Research Register. The Register provides researchers with a centralised resource of local volunteers who are interested in being contacted regarding their participation in health and medical research either as a healthy control participant or as a person with a medical condition.
The Biomolecular Research Facility
HMRI has been a key contributor to the Biomolecular Research Facility at the University of Newcastle which houses protein sequencing and 2Dgel facilities valued at $1.4million. In 2002 work began to establish a state of the art proteomics facility in Newcastle after HMRI was awarded a prestigious Wellcome Trust grant of $473,000 to purchase a MALDI-tof mass spectrometer for the rapid identification of human proteins.
The NSW Centre for SNP analysis
Because of the enormous developments in our ability to analyse and interpret changes in gene expression and variations in genetic makeup, gene expression profiling has become an essential tool in biology. It is now accepted that such analysis has enormous potential for tailoring appropriate therapy for individual patients and for determining disease susceptibility or drug resistance in a population. HMRI hosts the NSW Centre for SNP analysis as part of the Ramaciotti Functional Genomics Network.
The Newcastle Bioinformatics Initiative
HMRI has been a key contributor to the establishment and promotion of The Newcastle Bioinformatics Initiative (NBI), a multidisciplinary project that works at the interface of Biology, Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry and Computer Science. The group began its works in the year 2003 and has obtained significative results in several genetically-driven diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, Schizophrenia, cancer (breast, melanoma, colon, etc.), and Xeroderma Pigmentosum.
The Human Bio-Hazardous Tissue Handling Facility
Established through two significant corporate donations to HMRI, the Human Bio-Hazardous Tissue Handling Facility is a dedicated facility which enables local researchers to work with human tissues such as brain tissues in their quest to understand the basis of human diseases such as Parkinson's disease and macular degeneration (the most common cause of blindness in the elderly).
Since human tissues are potentially pathogenic, the facility is equipped with biohazard hoods to allow researchers to handle tissue in safety. The secure facility also boasts long term ultra-low temperature tissue storage capacity in a dedicated -80C freezer, allowing researchers to archive these valuable tissues for future studies. A key characteristic of this facility is that it adds a new dimension to the types of investigation that are possible in the Hunter Region and now facilitates the direct analysis of human tissues, which often have distinctive properties relative to those of laboratory animals.
The Schizophrenia Register, Hunter DNA Bank and Virtual Brain Bank
HMRI researchers have also established the Schizophrenia Register in collaboration with the Neuroscience Institute for Schizophrenia and Allied Disorders (NISAD) to assist in researching this area.
The register is a database of people interested in being involved in a wide range of schizophrenia-related research projects. It includes the Hunter DNA Bank for Schizophrenia and Allied Disorders and the Virtual Brain Bank.
The Hunter DNA Bank is a resource that collects DNA samples from people with schizophrenia, their families and from the general community. It now has over 100 samples stored for genetic research into schizophrenia.
The Virtual Brain Bank, established in collaboration with NISAD, UCLA and The University of Essen, Germany is a collection of digital brain scans of people with schizophrenia, their families and the general community. The Schizophrenia Register has become an invaluable resource to assist researchers in their studies.
The Australian EEG Database
HMRI holds the largest de-identified EEG database in Australia with over 20,000 records from the John Hunter Hospital that span from babies as young as 12 weeks premature to 98 year old adults. Collaboration between clinical psychologists, physicists, bioinformatics specialists and mathematicians has reulted in new techniques to identify characteristic features of the EEG record that can discriminate between patient groups. Current studies include quantitative analyses of developmental changes in basal EEG patterns related to epilepsy and autism.