The Spinal Cord Injury Research Facility – Centre for Brain Research, Auckland University
The major role of SCRIF is to establish expertise and maintain spinal injury models that can be accessed by researchers throughout New Zealand. The unit will help further develop, grow and maintain an ongoing research programme with existing international collaborations and foster new initiatives both in New Zealand and abroad. Administrative support and a research environment for student training will be provided by the Centre for Brain Research’s Integrative Neuroscience Facility. The unit plays a key role in educating bright, young students in spinal injury research and clinical awareness and practice.
Principal Researchers at the SCIRF
Dr Simon O’Carroll is a research fellow in the Centre for Brain Research. He has expertise in the use of animal models for spinal cord injury and leads the running of the unit. Dr O’Carroll’s research interests focus on the role of connexins in spinal cord injury, neuroinflammation, neurodegenerative disease and neurogenesis.
Professor Colin Green has published widely in the fields of gap junction biology and their roles in development, health and disease and has an established research interest in central nervous system and spinal cord injury. Professor Green has a strong focus on translational research and currently holds the W & B Hadden Chair of Ophthalmology and Translational Vision Research and was a founding scientist of CoDaTherapeutics (NZ) Ltd and CoDa Therapeutics, Inc (USA), established to apply the major breakthroughs he and collaborators have made in the role of gap junctions in tissue injury and repair.
The SCIRF is located in the hub of the Centre for Brain Research – a purpose built dedicated neuroscience research laboratory, situated in the Grafton Campus of the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at The University of Auckland. This laboratory environment is a specialist neuroscience research area, with world-class studies underway investigating human brain disease, stem cells, gene therapy, and drug development. As well as the physical proximity to such ground-breaking studies, SCIRF also links to the wider neuroscience research underway in Auckland University, through the Integrative Neuroscience Facility in the Centre for Brain Research. This collaborative approach means that pre-clinical investigations carried out in the laboratory are underpinned by molecular, cellular and clinical work underway in the rest of the centre.
The Centre for Brain Research is directed by Professor Richard Faull. Richard has an international reputation for his research studies on the normal and diseased human brain and has been awarded New Zealand’s highest scientific award, the Rutherford Medal. He is the Patron of the Alzheimer’s Foundation (Auckland), Alzheimers New Zealand Charitable Trust and the Huntington’s Disease Association (Auckland and Northland), and the Medical Patron of the Motor Neurone Disease Association of New Zealand.
All research carried out in the SCIRF must first be approved by the University of Auckland Animal Ethics Committee. This stringent ethics committee ensures that all research carried out in the University adheres to international ethical and safety standards. A panel of experts from across the University assess each research project and guarantee only the highest quality will pass to meet its high standards.
The use of human tissue bequeathed to the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand Human Brain Bank must follow strict ethical guidelines. All research projects must first be approved by the University of Auckland Human Ethics Committee. The team have also developed protocols for sensitive use of the tissue according to tikanga Māori.
SCIRU will be located in a PC1 laboratory, and in a dedicated high containment facility within the VJU Research Unit which means that all practices adhere to rigorous health and safety standards. PC1 ensures that all biological material is handled safely and carefully, so that human health is protected. The high containment facility will allow the use stem cell and gene therapy technologies. All employees and students in the laboratory must undergo training in the safety standards before any research is commenced.
SCIRF is part of the Integrative Neuroscience Facility in the Centre for Brain Research, with the aim to produce research that is cutting-edge and maximises resources. Ideas, techniques and skills are shared within the unit, so that ground-breaking developments in the field of spinal cord injury will be able to influence those in stroke treatment, and vice versa. Our researchers also have numerous national and international collaborations, ensuring that SCIRF is at the forefront of global research. SCIRF welcomes new research collaborations and ideas, with the aim of maximising spinal cord research in New Zealand. Our ultimate hope is finding a cure for spinal cord injury.