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Robot Changes The Way Research Is Done In Westmead

18-Apr-2023 15:24 | Cassidy Lau (Administrator)

Game-changing robotic equipment has been donated to Children’s Medical Research Institute’s Stem Cell and Organoid Facility by the Medich Foundation, which will accelerate research into stem cells, organoids, and human diseases.

Dr Anai Gonzalez Cordero is a leader in the field of stem cell medicine and organoids: mini-organs grown in the dish from lab-grown stem cells. Following a seven-year appointment at University College London, Dr Gonzalez Cordero founded the Stem Cell and Organoid Facility at CMRI in 2019.

Her laboratory team transforms small samples of skin or blood into stem cells, which can be directed to turn into almost any type of cell, and then to form organoids.

“Thanks to the Medich Foundation, Dr Gonzalez Cordero and her team now have advanced technology which enables them to greatly expand their study of organoids derived from a patient’s own cells. These organoids exhibit the genetic disease of the patient – offering a window through which to investigate disease mechanisms and develop new treatments and cures,” said CMRI’s Director, Professor Roger Reddel AO. “This will speed up their work.”

The Medich Foundation was established in 2012 by Roy and Anthony Medich, along with their families, to facilitate their philanthropic activities which have a particular focus on medical research. Their philosophy is that giving back improves both the quality and longevity of lives.

“The Medich Foundation wants to support the communities we invest in,” said Anthony Medich, “and we believe society is only as strong as its weakest members. Supporting this type of medical research will give hope to children and families who are dealing with devastating genetic conditions - hope for effective treatments and cures.”

Over many years Dr Gonzalez Cordero has developed exceptional expertise in generating retinal (eye) organoids. At CMRI she has now expanded her research to include neural (central nervous system), kidney, lung and cardiac cells and organoids.

Organoids speed up the development and testing of new therapies, especially for inherited diseases, but there is an urgent need for large-scale production. With the new robotic equipment’s automated set-up, this will now be possible.

“Stem cells require a lot of daily care,’’ Dr Gonzalez Cordero said. “They must be fed every day of the week.’’

The facility team feed the cells, which are stored in plates. Every day they must also watch to see if any of the cells have grown enough to be transferred into new plates, to continue to grow more cells indefinitely.

Thanks to the Medich Foundation, all that manual work will now be completed by the Hamilton Microlab Star robot. As well as processing the cells, it can also more accurately assess when a cell is ready to be transferred, rather than relying on human assessment.

“This is not only saving us time but it also allowing the process to be more precise and consistent. We are eliminating human error and the risk of contamination. We are now producing a more consistent protocol and a more robust system.’’

Dr Gonzalez Cordero said this gift was creating more opportunities for her team to focus on their research.

“It is really incredible to have this level of support from the Medich Foundation because without them, we wouldn’t have this robot.

“Philanthropy is so important to our work at Children’s Medical Research Institute, and that is especially true for a lab like ours that is working in such a new field. It is very rewarding to think that this astute private organisation sees the potential in what we’re doing.

“Our thanks to Anthony Medich and his family for helping us in our efforts to make the incurable curable and improve the lives of countless children for generations to come.”

About Children’s Medical Research Institute

Children’s Medical Research Institute (CMRI) is an award-winning state-of-the-art medical research facility dedicated to researching the genes and proteins important for health and human development. CMRI is supported in part by its key fundraiser Jeans for Genes®. CMRI is located at Westmead a major hub for research and medicine in Sydney, NSW Australia, and is affiliated with the University of Sydney.

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