High frequency ultrasound machines for medical research have advanced substantially since the early 2000's when the first machines became available, reducing costs and improving product quality. Victor Chang Institute's old machine was fragile and difficult to use, slowing progress and limiting who used it and how. For the Institute to remain a world leader in heart research upgrading to the new machine became a high priority.
This grant supported the purchase of a new ultrasound machine that has enabled significant new research projects including echocardiography on zebrafish - a seemingly unlikely but valuable research model for human heart disease.
As a non-invasive and benign method of accurately assessing heart function in models of human heart disease, high frequency ultrasound is an invaluable research tool. Upgrading the high frequency ultrasound machine has allowed the Victor Chang Institute to stay abreast of this world leading technology, increase the range and types of studies being undertaken and enhanced throughput. This piece of equipment will keep the Victor Chang Institute on par with leading research groups for many years. On a practical level, many customer support and warranty issues associated with the old machine are now avoided.
Receiving The Ian Potter Foundation grant provided proof to other potential contributors who happily came on board. With support from the manufacturer, Victor Chang research scientist Mr Scott Kesteven managed the transition over several months to allow completion of ongoing research on the superseded machine and to also ensure with new research projects that the new machine operated as expected.
Assessing the benefit of this project will require monitoring for several years as publishing papers in peer reviewed journals is a lengthy process, but at this early stage several papers are being readied based on newly acquired data. The new zebrafish echocardiography program has spawned a whole new direction in research at the Victor Chang Institute.
Prior to the acquisition of the new machine, all ultrasound studies in the Victor Chang Institute were carried out by one researcher and took an average of 25-30 minutes, now the same studies take 15-20 minutes improving efficiency, data quality and reproducibility.
The Institute now also has an additional regular operator: Dr Louis Wang, who is undertaking his PhD with Professor Diane Fatkin. Louis is studying zebrafish which have been genetically modified to emulate human heart disease. In the past 18 months he has been able to perform hundreds of ultrasound studies and is about to publish papers which will likely define the methods and protocols of this developing field of research.
This grant spurred the upgrading of an old ultrasound machine to the best currently available. It enabled the Victor Chang Institute to provide proof that this upgrade was necessary to other philanthropic groups and individuals.
Upgrading avoided potentially costly repairs to the old machine. Most importantly it has increased the types, speed and efficiency of studies, providing more and better quality data for publications.
The benefits of this grant will be multifaceted, from improving day-to-day science to enhancing the Institute's ability to source funding in the long term. In a number of ways this new machine has future-proofed the Victor Chang Institute.
Invited Case Study by Mr Scott Kesteven, Victor Chang Institute.
"This grant was awarded to enable the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute to purchase state-of-the-art high frequency echocardiography equipment suitable for the investigation of cardiac function in small animals. This equipment will increase the number, speed, accuracy and range of echocardiography studies being carried out by a number of highly regarded investigators who are addressing fundamental, important issues relating to human heart function and disease."
- Professor Graeme Ryan AC, Governor of The Ian Potter Foundation