Loyal friend pursues research

Published: January 9, 2009  |  Source: north-west-news.whereilive.com.au
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GORDON PARK: The sight of seeing a mate restricted to a wheelchair drove Gordon Park’s Tim O’Shea to inspiring heights.

Devastated when his rugby union team mate Ben Harvey was diagnosed a quadriplegic after a match day mishap, O’Shea pursued a QUT biomedical engineering degree, opening the door for him to study spinal cord repair research.

O’Shea has now been awarded with a $150,000 General Sir John Monash Award for postgraduate study at an overseas university for three years.

Next year, he will attend one of three top university research centres in the United States which aim to repair the spinal cord after injury.

It is research O’Shea hopes will develop improved outcomes for Ben and other spinal cord injury patients.

“In this particular interdisciplinary research area, biomedical engineers work collaboratively with scientists and clinicians in an attempt to design and develop new therapies which are effective and clinically relevant for patients,” O’Shea said.

“My area of interest is tissue engineering and in particular, focussing on the potential of biomaterials such as biodegradable polymers and the use of nanotechnology in neural research.

“I will be looking at an implant that could direct the controlled release of suitable bioactive molecules to provide the right biological signals to the injury site to stimulate spinal cord repair.

“As there is no satisfactory treatment option currently available for spinal cord injury, this research represents a potential future solution for patients.”

O’Shea said early indications were showing promising results.

“However, there is still a lot of hard work to be done before we see all of the potential of this therapy for patient use,” he said.

Tim is also applying to a collaborative MIT-Harvard University facility, the Georgia Institute of Technology and John Hopkins University, to do his PhD.

“Each university is looking at different strategies to spinal cord repair using tissue engineering,” he said.

“But all have the same common holistic approach to research.”

Tim said his friend Ben was told when he first broke his neck that he wouldn’t regain much function of his limbs.

“But he is improving all the time and I hope my research will lead to further improvements for him in the future,” he said.