Delving deeper into brain injury and heart disease

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

A multi-million dollar medical imaging research and innovation centre is being built in Gisborne to advance understanding of the brain, heart, and body in order to improve health outcomes for the community.

Mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), or concussion, is now a multi-billion-dollar health issue globally.  

Sir Richard Faull (Ngāti Rahiri and Te Ātiawa), is the founding director of the Centre for Brain Research (CBR) and Distinguished Professor of Anatomy at the University of Auckland and is New Zealand’s pre-eminent neuroscientist.

“A lot of brain research is concentrating on the older population with brain disease like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, but this is a disease which we know is a prevalent disease of young people, you know, motor-vehicle accidents, sports injuries, all sorts of things,” says Faull.

Mātai Centre Māori Advisory Board member and East Coast elder Taina Ngarimu says, "[Injured people] go home and the reason behind the headaches are not looked at, so this is about investigating those aspects."

Chief Operating Officer for Mātai Research Institute, Leigh Potter (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu, Rongomaiwahine), says, “With the MRI we can see microscopic movements of the brain which can help us around diagnosis or early bi-markers of concussion.”

The Mātai Centre will have a particular focus on concussion and heart disease.

“Cardiovascular disease is our biggest killer in Tairāwhiti and there is a group of experts around the table developing research around cardiovascular disease which again will validate with the 3T MRI which will be geared up to look at the heart,” says Potter.

“We're suffering some types of diseases now that perhaps were not around in the times of our ancestors,” says Ngarimu.

The Mātai Research Institute will be built at Hauora Tairāwhiti, with $6mil from the Provincial Growth Fund.  The centre will be used to to conduct transformational research to improve patient outcomes for the community.

“Something I'm really passionate about is ensuring that we retain our talent that we have here in Te Tairāwhiti but also that we attract our talent home, like Dr Samantha Holdsworth and Dr Cassidy Hameora Moeke (Ngāti Porou). Dr Samantha Hodsworth has returned from Stanford University, she brings with her skills and technology to look at early bi-markers of concussion.”

The Mātai Centre will help develop career pathways for Tairāwhiti tamariki and rangatahi.

“[It'll] inspire our next generation of scientists, mathematics students, technology students, to be able to study here.  Having sat at the frontline for 23 years, it's exciting for me to think that we can bring research to an area of need and make a difference for our people.”

An additional $1mil in support has come from the Eastland Community Trust (ECT).