One such study is examining how the molecule oxytocin impacts the brain and body when delivered to humans. Oxytocin is one of the most important natural chemicals in the brain that guides social behaviour. When administered, research shows it can improve social understanding and may have benefits to support people with schizophrenia and autism. However, it is a mystery about where oxytocin is absorbed and the circuits it impacts in the brain and body to cause its effects in humans.
Using the TB PET Scanner, a team led by the University of Sydney’s Professor Adam Guastella, will see in real-time the brain and body circuits impacted by oxytocin after its delivery intranasally or by intravenous injection. This has the potential to change fundamental knowledge of the biology of human social behaviour and could lead to a range of new therapies.
The new facility forms part of Sydney Imaging, the University of Sydney's Core Research Facility for biomedical imaging. As a nationally significant research platform, it is also a flagship of the National Imaging Facility (NIF), through the Australian Government Department of Education’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS).
Governing Board Chair of the National Imaging Facility, Professor Margaret Harding, said the NIF’s investment of $8m in the Australian National Total Body PET Facility was its largest to date, and represented Australia's largest single investment in molecular imaging, underpinning research that is of high priority in reducing Australia’s burden of disease.
“The facility is a unique national asset which will revolutionise Australia’s capacity to attract and support research and industry undertaking clinical trials for the development of new pharmaceuticals and medical products to improve health outcomes for Australia,” Professor Harding said.
The Australian National Total Body PET Facility will operate under an equal time-share arrangement between clinical use and research, ensuring five day per week open access for all researchers throughout Australia.
Speaking to patient benefits, Chief Executive of the Northern Sydney Local Health District, Adjunct Professor Anthony Schembri, said: “Royal North Shore Hospital and Northern Sydney Local Health District have a proud history of delivering world-class imaging and care to improve patient outcomes.
“We are extremely honoured to be hosting this Australian-first where patients can receive world class care, and researchers can use the scanner for clinical research which may translate into improving patient care in the future.”
The University’s contribution to the new facility is underpinned by a bequest made by William Chapman who left the majority of his estate as a gift dedicated to cancer research at the University of Sydney. His legacy is set to have an enormous impact on cancer research and on the survival and quality of life of patients.
The University of Sydney’s Professor Emma Johnston, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), said: “The combined clinical and research arrangements for this amazing medical imaging technology and its location in a bustling hub of activity at Royal North Shore Hospital will foster collaboration among researchers, healthcare providers, policymakers, and industry leaders to fast-track innovation in research translation.”