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Scientific facilities

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About Us

Mission Statement “By the end of 2010, GRA will be pre-eminent as the major Australian genetic materials repository and the preferred supplier of DNA and cell lines derived from comprehensively phenotyped diseased and normal subjects”. Overview In 2007, GRA officially opened for general use to provide researchers with a central facility for the processing, long-term secure storage and distribution of human genetic samples (DNA & Cell lines) for both academic and commercial users. Services include the production and provision of immortalised lymphoblast cell lines and DNA samples. No equivalent facility exists in Australia to provide these services yet they form an essential part of all genetic and epidemiological studies that aim to deliver new knowledge and improved health care outcomes. Aims and Objectives The GRA facility will fill an essential ‘missing link’ in the translation of population and pedigree based studies into genetic and genomic investigations. GRA will stimulate and facilitate world-class collaborative health and medical research in Australia and internationally through the production and provision of genetic resources along with relevant clinical or epidemiological information. GRA will provide a key resource for studies that are emerging from the biotechnology revolution, including the growing fields of pharmacogenomics and personalised medicine. The Repositories will grow to be an integral part of research in molecular and clinical genetics at both diagnostic and therapeutic levels. Nature and Scope of Activities GRA provides researchers with a central facility for the processing, long-term secure storage and distribution of human genetic samples (DNA & Cell lines). This includes the production and provision of immortalised lymphoblast cell lines and DNA samples. Samples can be shipped to the facility from the point of collection, whether at the investigator’s site or remote from it. DNA and immortalised cell lines will be generated by GRA and either stored for distribution to qualified investigators or, in the case of fee-for-service work, be delivered to the investigator. GRA will provide primary secure storage for this material. The Repositories provide a source of clinically validated but de-identified patient material, with complete phenotypic descriptors of disease and family or cohort structure that will permit genetic analyses for disease gene identification. In addition, GRA provides a facility, for researchers who are not themselves able to pursue DNA based research, to deposit materials for collaborative research. Facility Staff GRA is under the direction of the Facility Manager, Steve Turner. The GRA facility has 1 full-time Research Assistant, 3 full-time Technical Assistants and 1 casual Technical Assistant. Grants Genetic Repositories Australia, NHMRC Enabling Grant – Special Facilities, Grant ID 401184, 2006-2010. The Chief Investigators on the NHMRC Enabling Grant are Prof Peter Schofield (Neuroscience Research Australia & University of New South Wales), Assoc Prof Juleen Cavanaugh (Australian National University, Medical School, Canberra Hospital), Dr Susan Forrest (Australian Genome Research Facility) and Prof John Hopper (Centre for Genetic Epidemiology, University of Melbourne). Publications Publications arising from access to GRA Services and/or Material (DNA and/or cell lines) are to be forwarded to the GRA Facility Manager. A list of publications arising from GRA supported projects is provided below: Haobo Zhang, Julian N Trollor, Wei Wen, Wanlin Zhu, John D Crawford, Nicole A Kochan, Melissa J Slavin, Henry Brodaty, Simone Reppermund, Kristan Kang, Karen A Mather, Perminder S Sachdev (2010). Grey matter atrophy of basal forebrain and hippocampus on mild cognitive impairment. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry jnnp.2010.217133 Sachdev PS, Brodaty H, Reppermund S, Kochan NA, Trollor JN, Draper B, Slavin MJ, Crawford J, Kang K, Broe GA, Mather KA, Lux O; the Memory and Ageing Study Team (2010). The Sydney Memory and Ageing Study (MAS): methodology and baseline medical and neuropsychiatric characteristics of an elderly epidemiological non-demented cohort of Australians aged 70-90 years. International Psychogeriatrics 2010 Jul 19:1-17. Sachdev PS, Lammel A, Trollor JN, Lee T, Wright MJ, Ames D, Wen W, Martin NG, Brodaty H, Schofield PR; OATS research team (2009). A comprehensive neuropsychiatric study of elderly twins: the Older Australian Twins Study. Twin Research and Human Genetics 2009 Dec 12(6):573-82. Two recent reviews recognising the value of lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) and DNA Biobanks as an important resource for genetic and functional research and specifically which highlight GRA and its services are listed below: Sie L, Loong S and Tan EK (2009). Utility of lymphoblastoid cell lines Journal of Neuroscience Research 2009 Jul 87(9):1953-9. Sivakumeran, T.A and Lyengar, S.K. (2008). DNA Bank. Wiley Encyclopedia of Clinical Trials. 1-11. The Future Our vision is to continue to expand GRA as an ongoing national research enabling facility that will provide a resource to enhance the research and collaborative capacity of publicly-funded research in the study of health and disease via processing and distributing clinical and epidemiological materials. Our goal is to provide appropriately consented bio-specimen resources through an ethically-based system that will both protect the rights and privacy of participants and allow for open access by the research community to expedite research into the causes and treatments of disease in Australia.  

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Biorepository Catalog

The cohorts that appear within GRA's Biorepository Catalog have appropriately consented material (DNA and/or Cell line) available for distribution. From the menu items on the left select the disease category, each of which contain multiple cohorts, to browse collection and download accompanying minimal clinical dataset/s at the base of each page. Information on how to access GRA Material can be found here. Neurodegeneration Frontotemporal Dementia DNA & Cell line - 326 samples The specific aims of this project are to identify gene mutations that cause neurodegenerative diseases to develop, in particular the focus is on various forms of FTD including its association with MND, and early onset Alzheimer's disease. The project seeks to identify and understand the different ways that genes are involved in neurodegeneration. Patients are recruited by clinicians and clinical information regarding family history and other relevant information is collected. Very early cognitive, behavioural and imaging features of familial FTD are assessed and most patients are monitored longitudinally with questionnaire's to monitor disease progression. This collection of data allows the detailed investigation of phenotype-genotype correlations. Motor Neuron Disease DNA & Cell line - 8 samples MND also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is an illness, typically causing death within 3-5 years of onset of symptoms. While 90% of cases of MND/ALS are sporadic, the only proven causes of MND/ALS are gene mutations leading to motor neuron death; known genes only account for approximately 2% of all cases of MND/ALS.The project seeks to identify and investigate the biology of genes that either cause or predispose to MND/ALS through genome screens to identify chromosomal regions that harbour MND/ALS genes and then identifying, cloning and performing functional analyses of those genes. The cohort consists of participants with sporadic cases of MND, aged between 50-80. Stroke DNA & Cell line - 50 samples Stroke is a leading cause of disability accompanied by loss of brain function due to a disturbance in blood supply, lack of blood flow or haemorrhage. A mutation on the brain-derived neurotrophic factor gene is known to limit activity-induced plasticity and recovery after stroke.Genetic factors and biomarkers may assist in the identification of effective rehabilitation strategies and stroke vulnerability in healthy populations.DNA and cell lines derived from stroke patients aged 20-80 (4-144 months post-stroke haemorrhagic/ischemic) who participated in studies investigating a novel post–stroke rehabilitation strategy (Wii-based Movement Therapy) including assessments of movement ability pre- and post-therapy are available. Ageing Older Australian Twins DNA & Cell line - 562 samples The Older Australian Twins Study (OATS) is the most comprehensive ageing study with elderly twins ever undertaken in Australia. Study participants are 65 years and older identical and non-identical twin pairs, living across the eastern seaboard. They undergo rigorous medical and cognitive function tests and are asked to provide bloods samples for DNA and cell line establishment as well as MRI scans of their brain. Information about environmental factors, such as lifetime physical and mental activity, physical and psychological trauma, and nutrition is also collected. Comprehensive cardiovascular tests, and in some instances, falls and balance checks are also provided. Two-year and four-year follow-up tests are carried out to measure change. Centenarians DNA & Cell line - 271 samples The Sydney Centenarian Study aims to study the genetic, environmental and cognitive factors influencing longevity. The findings will shed light on which factors are particularly important for ageing well, which in turn will allow us to inform lifestyle choices in younger and middle aged Australians. The findings will also inform decisions to improve the quality of life of older Australians, and plan for future older generations. This is particularly important as we have an ageing population and need to ensure the health system is prepared. The study participants are 95 years and above, living in the Sydney locality. Comprehensive examinations of physical, psychological, and cognitive status are included, as well are MRI scans and blood tests (where possible). Follow-up assessments are conducted at 6 monthly intervals to track changes in physical and cognitive ability. Ageing Intellectually Disabled DNA & Cell Line - 9 samples People with intellectual disability are living longer, more active and productive lives. As they age, people with intellectual disability face the same physical and mental health issues as the rest of the community, but some will experience these at much younger ages. This study aims to examine the occurrence of physical and mental health problems in older people with intellectual disability, and which factors assist those persons with intellectual disability to retain their health as they age. The study is a new collaboration between researchers from the University of New South Wales, La Trobe University, and Monash University. Study participants are 40 years and older, living across Sydney and Illawarra, NSW and Bendigo, Victoria. The main guardian of the participant is required to complete an extensive questionnaire regarding the physical and mental health of the person with intellectual disability. A proportion of participants are invited to complete a psychometric assessment and provide blood samples for DNA with a few selected individuals invited to undergo a MRI scan. Thirty-month and 60-month follow ups are carried out to measure change in cognitive, physical and mental health. Mental Illness Bipolar disorder DNA & Cell line ~ 360 samples The Bipolar Kids and Sibs project is an ongoing longitudinal study that is being conducted to identify factors associated with the development of bipolar disorder within a high-risk population. Individuals aged between 12 to 30 are being recruited from three distinct groups: those with a first-degree relative with a formally diagnosed bipolar (I or II) disorder, those who themselves have already been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and those with no family history of major psychiatric illness. The study aims to identify clinical and/or biological features (including neuroanatomical and genetic) that are more common among those who go on to develop bipolar disorder, in the hope of improving earlier detection and diagnosis. In addition it is hoped that this study can identify clinical and/or biological changes that precede the development of symptoms associated with bipolar disorder. Participants complete a comprehensive clinical and neuropsychological assessment, undergo both structural and functional MRI, and provide blood samples for genetic analyses. Schizophrenia DNA & Cell line - 136 samples The primary objective of this double-blind, cross-over, placebo controlled study was to determine the extent to which administration of the selective oestrogen receptor modulator raloxifene can reverse cognitive impairment, reduce symptoms and normalise brain activity in people with schizophrenia. People with a diagnosis of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder between the ages of 18 and 55 who were treated for at least one year with any anti-psychotic medication were recruited. Any people with an Axis I psychiatric diagnosis other than schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder and a history of current substance abuse (within past 5 years), head injuries with concomitant loss of consciousness, seizures, central nervous system infection, diabetes, hypertension, mental retardation, or contraindications to the administration of raloxifene were excluded. DSM-IV diagnosis of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder was confirmed using the Structured Clinical Interview for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV. A sample of 80-90 healthy adults in the same age range 18 to 55 years old were also assessed on the same parameters to provide a comparison group. Schizophrenia and Bipolar disorder DNA and Cell line - 195 samples This cohort has been convened to determine genetic markers of cross-disorder intermediate (endo) phenotypes that span the diagnostic categories of schizophrenia and bipolar-I disorder. Participants in the study are between 18 and 60 years old and have a diagnosis of schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or bipolar I disorder. There is also a subset of healthy control participants with no previous history of psychiatric disorder or psychosis in first degree relatives. In addition to donating a blood sample for genetic analysis, participants also undergo comprehensive clinical and cognitive assessment, provide saliva samples, and undergo a structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). First episode psychosis DNA only - 66 samples Stress and abnormal functioning of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis have been reported in patients with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. The project seeks to gain a greater understanding of the role of stress and HPA dysfunction in First Episode Psychosis and an insight into underlying neurobiological mechanisms involved in progressive brain volume loss in psychotic disorders. Samples from drug naive First Episode Psychosis patients and healthy matched control subjects, aged between 15-25, were obtained. Biological measures of HPA function, psychopathology, medication compliance, neurocognition, life events/daily hassles, perceived stress, coping style, experience of trauma, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and MR Spectroscopy (MRS) brain scans were analysed to achieve the aims of the project. Development Cerebral Palsy DNA & Cell line - 269 samples The Genomics of Cerebral Palsy study is the most comprehensive research study of children with cerebral palsy to be undertaken in Australia. Participants and their parents were asked to provide blood samples for DNA and cell line establishment; families were collected as trios, duos and singletons. Study participants are typically between the ages of 2 – 18 yrs. Cases were recruited in SA, WA, QLD & NSW, mainly through botox theatre lists at major children’s hospitals. A comprehensive maternal questionnaire was required where information about environmental factors, such as infections and complications during pregnancy were also collected. Consent was obtained to access medical records, midwife notes and specialists reports; all clinical information was cross-checked by linkage to state CP Registers. Fragile X Syndrome Sydney Study - DNA & Cell line - 50 samples Fragile X-associated tremor ataxia syndrome is a recently identified neurodegenerative disorder affecting a proportion of older adults who carry a moderate expansion (also known as a ‘premutation’) of the Fragile X gene. Symptoms of disorder include problems with balance, coordination, memory and thinking skills. At present, the understanding of this syndrome, including why some people develop cognitive and motor symptoms and others do not, is in its infancy. In this project we are performing detailed memory and balance tests on adults (aged 18+) who carry the Fragile X premutation to determine the effect of the gene expansion on their health. Melbourne Study - DNA & Cell line - 72 samples The data is a collection from a multi-site and inter-disciplinary study that was funded through the Australian Research Council examining the genetic, neurobehavioural and neuromotor signatures in female carriers of the fragile X syndrome. This project was aimed at characterising developmental trajectories and identifying early precursors to later neurological decline in a recently described neurodegenerative disorder, fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome. We provide data on CGG-repeat length as determined by Triple Primed PCR (Asuragen) and Southern Blot. Determination of Southern methylation status was from peripheral blood. Pink Disease DNA & Cell line - 25 samples Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are classed as neurodevelopmental disorders characterised by impairments in social relatedness and communication, repetitive behaviours, abnormal movement patterns, and sensory dysfunction. While the prevalence of these disorders is increasing, the neurobiological and environmental causes of ASD still remain elusive. Pink Disease has an age of onset usually between 6-12 months with the most common known cause being mercury containing teething powders. While the use of mercury in teething powders was banned in the 1950's, there were, and still are, numerous other household, industrial, natural, agricultural and medical sources of mercury in the environment. This project proposes to examine the link between mercury sensitivity and the development of ASD by examining the mechanisms of mercury sensitivity between cells derived from individuals with ASD and normal controls. The cohort consists of participants diagnosed with Pink disease at 0.5-1 years old, and aged between 60-75 years old when the samples were taken. Healthy Population Aussie Normals DNA & Cell line - 361 samples The Aussie Normals are a collection from a longitudinal study of healthy Australians in which we are determining haematological, biochemical and immunological metrics for healthy Australians using community sampling; and to establish a valuable research resource in the form of a repository of DNA, RNA and cell lines from these samples which will be made available as thoroughly documented healthy controls in genetics studies; and to measure health outcomes of participants at 5 years and to evaluate the associations between these outcomes, the baseline phenotypic measures and accumulating genotypic data. The samples are equally distributed across both genders and age ranges 18-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, and 60+ Case Example - Aussie Normal cohort assisting MND research "Identifying new gene mutations for motor neuron disease" Dr Ian Blair & Prof Garth Nicholson, ANZAC Research Institute & the University of Sydney. "Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as motor neuron disease, MND) is a rapidly progressive neurodegenerative disorder, leading to death within 3 to 5 years of first symptoms. There is a pressing need to develop more effective diagnostic tools and treatments for ALS. The long-term aim of our research is to identify and investigate the biology of those genes that either cause or predispose to ALS. Therefore, we are comparing and contrasting the in vitro properties of mutant and wild-type TDP-43 in various cell lines from ALS cases and controls (including those from the Aussie Normal cohort). This should give insights to the functional consequences of TDP-43 mutations in patient cells".  

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Genetic Repositories Australia (GRA)

Genetic Repositories Australia (GRA) is a national genetic repository for DNA and cell lines derived from appropriately consented disease-specific and population-based studies. GRA has been supported by a $2 million National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Enabling Facility Grant and is based at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA). The Chief Investigators on the NHMRC Enabling Grant 401184 are Prof Peter Schofield (Neuroscience Research Australia and University of New South Wales), Assoc Prof Juleen Cavanaugh (Australian National University), Dr Susan Forrest (Australian Genome Research Facility) and Prof John Hopper (University of Melbourne). Change of funding arrangements for NHMRC Enabling Facilities Important changes in NHMRC Support Mechanisms have been implemented; please refer to the following letter for further information. NHMRC Support Mechanisms PDF Obtaining cost estimates for NHMRC Project Grant submissions If you are intending to submit a Project Grant application which involves the use of Genetic Repositories Australia, then please contact the facility via or (02 9399 1725) as soon as possible to discuss your proposal and to obtain a cost estimate. Staff Kerrie Pierce

NeuRA Imaging

In July 2019, a new Philips Ingenia 3T Scanner has launched as a full time research instrument at NeuRA in the new Imaging Facility in the Margarete Ainsworth Building. Please access the new Imaging site via the button below. NEW IMAGING SITE The information below and any information available via the sub-site menu at the right of the page covers NeuRA's older research-clinical shared scanner. NeuRA has made a 3T MRI scanner available for research since 2003. This scanner is a Philips 3T TX MRI (upgraded May 2010). The facility currently operates for research 50% of the time and is open for research to scientists on a merit-based, user pays basis. It supports an active MRI research community of researchers from UNSW, The University of Sydney, Macquarie University and The University of Western Sydney as well as researchers from interstate and international sites as required.

Dr Claire Shepherd in the Sydney Brain Bank labs

Sydney Brain Bank

What is the Sydney Brain Bank? The Sydney Brain Bank (SBB) is a biobanking facility that collects, characterises, stores and distributes human brain and spinal cord tissue for research into disorders of the brain and mind. The facility was established in 2009 and is located at NeuRA, one of Australia’s leading institutes in brain research. The Sydney Brain Bank houses specialised laboratories and equipment designed for handling, dissecting and staining human brain and spinal cord tissue specimens. Our staff are highly trained in neuroanatomy, histology and immunohistochemistry and also have extensive skills in neuropathology and microscopy (brightfield, fluorescence and confocal). We are accredited through the NSW Health Biobanking certification program and operate within a national network of brain banks to facilitate requests for tissue and to build strong cohorts for research. We also partner with international consortia investigating the genetic architecture of brain and mind disorders and improved neuropathological characterisation. How does the brain bank work? The Sydney Brain Bank currently works with 10 brain donor programs. These focus on conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, motor neuron disease, Huntington’s disease, frontotemporal lobar degeneration and neurologically unaffected individuals. In 2020, the National Rugby League (NRL) announced its support of the most recent donor program to the Sydney Brain Bank. This research at NeuRA is looking into the prevalence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and impact of sports-related brain injuries. Our brain donors undergo detailed health assessments during life in order to examine how neurodegenerative changes may or may not be impacting on their quality of life. After death, brain and spinal cord tissue collection is carried out in a NSW Hospital mortuary according to standardised autopsy procedures. All tissue is comprehensively characterised according to standardised research diagnostic criteria before it is banked for use. Researchers are invited to submit proposals for studies utilising these tissues, which are reviewed with the help of an independent scientific review committee. For more information about accessing tissue please head to our tissue request page - Why is this research so important? Human brain tissue studies are vital to our understanding of neurodegenerative disorders, mental illness and normal ageing and have led to the development of diagnostic tools, the discovery of new disorders, novel genes and disease subtypes, the elucidation of disease mechanism and the development of therapeutic strategies. The Sydney Brain Bank is also internationally recognised for its excellence in clinicopathological research due to its standardized collection of brain tissue from prospectively followed cohorts with detailed longitudinal clinical information. We currently hold brain tissue from over 700 donors with diverse neuropathologies including Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body disease, motor neuron disease, Huntington’s disease, frontotemporal lobar degeneration, multiple system atrophy, chronic traumatic encephalopathy as well as age-related change. Each year we distribute over 6000 frozen, fixed and slide-mounted tissue specimens to local, national and international research groups to facilitate advances in medical research. The majority of research articles arising from the use of Sydney Brain Bank tissue are published in the top 10% of scientific journals and have a field weighted citation index of 2.43. How is the Sydney Brain Bank funded? The Sydney Brain Bank is supported by NeuRA through philanthropic donations made to the NeuRA Foundation, and successfully awarded philanthropic and competitive grant funds. How can you join a donor program? Want to learn more about the Sydney Brain Bank and brain donation? Then please head to our Frequently Asked Questions page   The Sydney Brain Bank is based at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) which is located next to the Prince of Wales Hospital on Barker St in Randwick NSW. Find us on Google maps Download a Randwick Hospitals campus map (PDF)