Funding via the Channel 7 Telethon Trust will support development of sophisticated imaging tools and their application to assist the Perron Institute and other researchers in their study of brain development and repair of brain injuries in babies and children.

One of the research projects receiving support aims to develop non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to accurately identify and aid in the diagnosis of neonatal encephalopathy within the first hours of birth.

Otherwise described as disrupted brain function, this syndrome has various causes, the most common being lack of oxygen before, during or immediately after birth.

“Babies who survive are at high risk of severe and permanent neurological disabilities such as cerebral palsy and epilepsy,” said Coordinating Principal Investigator Dr Adam Edwards.

“Immediate treatment can improve outcomes, and that is why early diagnosis is vital.

“The $195,000 Telethon grant will greatly assist in developing new MRI techniques to diagnose acute and chronic infant brain injury,” Dr Edwards said.

“The advanced imaging will be important for the Perron Institute’s very promising research on a peptide drug called poly-arginine-18 (R18) which has demonstrated the ability to significantly reduce brain cell death in preclinical models of preterm infant brain injury.”

Telethon has also generously supported the purchase of a high-resolution microscope for imaging brain cells. Other funding is from the Stan Perron Charitable Foundation, The University of Western Australia, PYC Therapeutics and the Perron Institute.

The Nikon A1R multiphoton microscope will be used to image the developing brain to advance knowledge and develop treatments to benefit child health.

“Deep tissue imaging at cellular resolution is crucial to understand the mechanisms of healthy brain development, as well as abnormal brain development and brain injuries,” said Associate Professor Jenny Rodger, MSWA Senior Research Fellow and Head of Brain Plasticity Research at the Perron Institute and UWA.

“This partnering initiative will also help to understand the side effects of potential therapeutics.”

The microscope, due to arrive in August, will be the only one of its kind in Western Australia. It will be housed at the Perron Institute but will be available for researchers and industry partners across the State through a centralised infrastructure and booking system.