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Major Projects

We are currently undertaking two new projects.

Passage of the appropriations bill for the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (H.4501) in June 2018, including a provision that…”not less than  $50,000,000 shall be expended for the renovation and related infrastructure improvements, including equipment, for a joint proposal between the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester to advance neuroscience-related workforce training, research, and commercialization of devices and image-based diagnostics relative to neuro-imaging and neuro-informatics across the commonwealth…”.

The portion of funds coming to the medical school will be used for two new projects, (1) major renovation and upgrade of imaging capabilities, called the NeuroNexus Imaging Core Facility, and development of a much-needed NeuroBehavioral Core facility.

NeuroNexus Imaging Core Facility

This project has several components. 

With respect to cellular and molecular imaging, plans are focused on acquisition of a third cryo-EM unit, to join two existing units.  These resources provide state-of-heart molecular imaging to UMMS investigators, outside academic investigators, and industry.  The Electron Microscopy Core Facility is adding an additional transmission electron microscope, with funding from the NIH.  We are advocating for acquisition of additional capabilities in cellular microscopy, likely to be part of the SCOPE core facility.

A major thrust of the neuroimaging project is to acquire imaging technology that will enable additional lines of research for UMMS investigators and attract corporate users, facilitating their research and product development.  We currently anticipate addition of a 7T MRI for small rodent and tissue sample imaging, addition of PET/CT and SPECT capabilities, including a cyclotron, and an additional Angiography suite for device development and training of interventional radiologists. These resources will supplement the currently available core facilities, which include a 3T research MRI and an angiography suite.

Much of the interest in neuroimaging capabilities relates to tracking disease course and treatment efficacy in animal models of disease, especially for nucleic acid and gene therapy trials.  As this work ‘scales up’ from rodents to larger animals (as needed to assess distribution of compounds in a larger brain), the animal facility infrastructure needs to evolve as well.  Included in the plans for the NeuroNexus Imaging Core facility is an increase in the capacity for housing large animals on campus for longer periods of time, which will require significant renovation of existing animal facilities.

NeuroBehavioral Core Facility

Many researchers in neuroscience conduct behavioral testing, ranging from short tests of coordination and endurance in locomotor activity to studies of spatial memory and various forms of conditioning.  At present, the UMMS community has no centralized resources for behavioral testing.  We will form a new Neurobehavioral Core Facility with equipment and space to perform a battery of tests of brain function, including assessment of sensory and motor function, cognitive function, and anxiety.  A survey was conducted in August 2018 to determine the equipment and expertise needs of the community.

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