A Griffith University researcher investigating how life support machines can cause life-threatening complications has won the Judge’s Award in the 2019 Fresh Science Competition.

A Queensland finalist in the 2019 Fresh Science Competition, Gold Coast based PhD candidate Antony McNamee was recognised for delivering the best public presentation of his research within a minute.

His research involves working to improve mechanical life support systems by assessing the damage they can have on the blood of critically ill patients, also creating life-threatening complications.

“We found that that the forces in life support machines damages blood structure and function with a run-on effect on patient health.”

While life support systems are vital for saving or extending the lives of critically ill patients, Antony said they can cause secondary complications that increase the risk of multi-organ failure or death.

“Our goal was to see how the mechanical forces of a life-support system affects the ability of the patient’s blood to travel around the body, delivering oxygen and nutrients,” he explained.

“We found that the mechanical forces within life support systems change the shape of red blood cells, reducing their ability to function as well.

“The blood of patients under life support was also more likely to clump together. And the longer a patient is on life support, the more likely it is for their blood cells to be damaged.”

The project, which is being undertaken in the Biorheology Research Laboratory at the Menzies Health Institute at Griffith University, now aims to develop new and more sensitive ways to detect red blood cell damage early to prevent life-threatening complications.

The research findings will also provide valuable information for developing other clinical surgery equipment and boosting the effectiveness of medical treatment.

Professor David Lloyd

“It is exciting that Antony and the team he works in, led by Dr Michael Simmonds and Professor Geoff Tansley, are being recognised for their internationally significant investigations,” said Professor David Lloyd, Director,GCORE,Menzies Health Institute Queensland.

“Ultimately, the outcomes of this important research will deliver improved medical treatments and a better quality of life for those requiring life-support (in surgery, trauma incidents, and dialysis).”

Antony McNamee

Antony and his team have also been recognised in a number of other awards recently.

“I received an Investigator Award from the International Federation of Artificial Organs and The Prince Charles Hospital also provided a New Investigator Grant for the project ‘Could sublethal blood damage explain the deleterious outcomes from artificial organs?’

“I am extremely fortunate to be working alongside world-class researchers (especially Dr Simmonds and Professor Tansley), who are all striving for meaningful global impact,” he said.

“We have a great team.”

Griffith University is one of the sponsors of Fresh Science in Queensland. Fresh Science is organised nationally by Science in Public. In Queensland, Econnect Communication trains and hosts the Fresh Science finalists.

Antony graduated from Griffith with a Bachelor of Exercise Science in 2015.

Griffith Health is one of the largest and most diverse single academic Health faculties in the Australian University sector. The Health Group consists of eight schools (Allied Health Sciences, Applied Psychology, Dentistry and Oral Health, Human Services and Social Work, Medicine, Medical Science, Nursing and Midwifery, and Pharmacy and Pharmacology) and provides an extensive array of high quality and innovative education programs ranging from the enabling biomedical and social health sciences to professional and clinical disciplines. Currently over 10,000 students and more than 700 staff work within the Health Group, as well as a network clinical training sites and practitioners who collaborate in our research and teaching.