A clinical suite at a University of Queensland health research facility is ready to help unlock the mysteries of neurological conditions experienced by one billion people worldwide.
Launched recently, the Neurosciences Clinical Research Suite (NCRS) at UQ’s Centre for Clinical Research (UQCCR) will be a go-to place for scientists, clinicians and health professionals to work directly with clinical trial patients to help find new treatments for brain disorders.
Specialist Neurologist and clinical researcher at UQCCR Associate Professor Rob Henderson said the suite, based at Herston Health Precinct, had been designed to help meet a growing demand and allow them to potentially increase clinical trials.
"Neurological trials are one of the fastest-growing therapies in Australia and this clinical research suite will help ensure Queensland is at the forefront of advancing this vital research," Dr Henderson said.
"It gives our researchers and clinicians more capability to assess patients in a person-centred way, which could eventually help us conduct more clinical trials and facilitate ground-breaking medical discoveries."
Neurological research underway at UQCCR is centred around improving outcomes for patients with brain disorders such as stroke, epilepsy, motor neuron disease, movement disorders, demyelinating diseases, progressive neurodegenerative diseases, mental illness, and brain injury.
Dr Henderson said the suite provided a one-on-one approach with clinical trial patients.
"This suite has a full fit-out of medical equipment and will allow those participating in a clinical trial to be assessed and receive specialised treatment in one easily accessible location," he said.
"Having a ’one-stop-shop’ can make all the difference to someone who has a brain disorder, along with their carers and families."
Brisbane resident Matt Whyte was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) in February and has signed up to multiple clinical trials at UQ to help scientists find a cure.
MND is a condition that affects the brain and nerves and causes weakness that gets worse over time. There is no cure.
"Last October, I lost balance stepping off the back of my car, landing flat on my back and fracturing my spine," Mr Whyte said.
"While I was recovering, my legs started getting weak and unstable and I was losing the ability to walk and falling into walls.
"It wasn’t until February this year that I was diagnosed with MND, and by then I was on crutches. Now I’m in a wheelchair."
Mr Whyte has signed-up to various clinical trials for MND underway at UQ, including Dr Henderson’s research into a drug that aims to slow down the effects on lungs and hand strength, as well as other trials that are looking at genetics, metabolism, muscle biopsies, and changes in the brain and spine using MRI scans as the disability develops.
He said a suite like the new one at UQCCR made perfect sense.
"If all the procedures can be done at one facility, the research trials can be a lot more proactive and there’s less impact on someone like myself," Mr Whyte said.
"MND is very fatiguing and having to wait all day at multiple places can really wear you out, so to be able to go to one place, and work with people who know and respect the disease, is really important.
"I don’t think they’ll find a magic cure in the time I’ve got left but hopefully my contribution will give them an insight to get one step closer."