Scientists will use light to explore deep inside human cells and better understand health problems like fertility, chronic pain and heart disease, in a new RMIT research centre.
The RMIT Research Node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) was jointly opened by Victorian Senator Bridget McKenzie, Vice-Chancellor and President, Martin Bean CBE, and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation and Vice-President, Professor Calum Drummond.
The state-of-the-art $3 million laboratory will enable researchers to study the florescent properties of nanoparticles and biomaterials, and more particularly, how they can be used to “light up” areas in the living body to explore what is happening inside cells at the nano and molecular level.
CNBP node leader, RMIT Associate Professor Brant Gibson, said the centre’s goal was to incorporate advanced nanoscale materials into new biomedical devices that would enable light to be delivered directly into targeted cells inside of the body.
“We can then look for specific molecular substances inside of those cells, measuring and analysing these substances to see how the body is working,” Gibson said.
“This will help us better understand fertility, pain, heart disease and a whole host of other human related health conditions.”
The research is challenging, with the cellular substances being examined sometimes only a few atoms across or about a nanometre in size. To date, they have been incredibly difficult to detect.
New laboratory facilities housing specialised optical and nanomaterial work areas, high end instrumentation as well as two state-of-the-art microscopy systems will support this high-tech activity.
One of the work areas will operate at cryogenic temperatures down to -269 degrees Celsius.
“This mitigates potential thermal effects,” Gibson said.
“Heat and temperature can impact what is extremely complex experimentation. We have here a laboratory facility that is extremely well equipped.”
Senator Bridget McKenzie said: “Truly innovative world-class research will take place at this centre, advancing our scientific knowledge immensely.
“The pioneering technology devised, will take us on an incredible journey of exploration, opening up our understanding of living cells and the living body.
“Discoveries will lead to the development of next generation health devices, which will improve our ability to identify and treat disease.”
Vice-Chancellor Martin Bean said the new RMIT centre was part of large and growing bio landscape in Melbourne and Victoria.
“Bio nanoscience will be one of the most important frontiers for the next generation of industries,” he said.
“This key centre is providing high-quality student and postdoctoral training environments for the next generation of researchers.
“It will give our graduate students the skills required to become the next generation of leaders in future high technology jobs and to help shape the world.”
Professor Calum Drummond said the University was proud to be supporting such an exciting and progressive area of nano-discovery.
“With the investment in these new facilities, we’ll see ambitious and transformational science, revolutionizing our ability to understand how the human body works,” he said.
The CNBP is a collaborative centre with research-focused nodes at the University of Adelaide, Macquarie University and RMIT.
The $40 million initiative focused on developing new light-based imaging and sensing tools that can provide new ways of understanding cellular processes taking place within the living body.
Story: Gosia Kaszubska