Hospital Care

Is there a best before date for blood?

The Common Good aims to provide sustainable funding for continued blood research and offer researchers the resources to start making their life-saving dreams a reality, dreams like those of Dr Monica Ng. Beginning her career as a junior researcher, with an idea that was “out there” and a project that took five years to develop. Monica is grateful for the support she has received from TCG, “I think the foundation has actually supported more than half of the entire PhD project. The research wouldn’t have been possible without this funding, I would say.”

Monica’s interest in research was identified while at medical school and spending time at the UQ laboratories, where working with cell cultures led to the beginnings of a higher research degree. As Monica also continued her medical degree she began to feel the desire to work within more clinically based research “I wanted to do something that I guess synergised better with my medical training.” With a head full of ideas and dreams of saving lives through clinically relevant research, it wasn’t until she was awarded a New Investigator grant from TCG that her research journey truly began. “Before the grant I had just come up with an idea, but now I actually had the support and resources to go and do it. One’s a pipe dream and the other one is real.” Said Monica.

With 1 in every 3 Australians needing a blood transfusion in their lifetime, Monica Ng wants to reduce the risks and complications associated with the transfusion procedure. Having identified evidence that the period of time packed red blood cells are stored can be associated with poor clinical outcomes, Monica has set out to discover exactly what storage and the act of transfusion itself is doing to blood, and how that is translating in patients. Observing these effects using an innovative vascular model built during her PhD. With this model Monica can assess the blood during an easily repeatable test of life like movement – mimicking the flow of blood in the body, providing a more accurate demonstration than static observation.

A small equipment grant has allowed for the purchase of the pump to connect to her vascular circuit with the continuation of her research leading to the awarding of an Emerging Researcher Grant, “It’s really cool now, because it's reached the point where I have used the model for transfusion research, and I'm actually running the final experiments for my PhD.” said Monica.

During the research process, unexpected discoveries or developments are sometimes made, discoveries that could improve future research and patient outcomes. That has been the case with Monica’s research, as new and innovative plans for the vascular model are made. After its successful use within her initial research, Monica and her mentor Prof. John Fraser have recognized the potential for the broader applications for Monica’s vascular model. They are now developing plans for the use of this model in future research, observing how different heart pumps affect blood and endothelium.

With the completion of her PhD due Monica is looking forward to the next step in her career in research. Monica hopes to continue work with her vascular model and receive more funding to help her make even more significant discoveries. She will also be giving back her time to mentor future researchers and students, as she was mentored. Students and researchers who will be relying on funding to make their research dreams a reality.

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