Dr Todd Shelper is a research fellow in the Clem Jones Centre for Neurobiology and Stem Cell Research team. Todd completed a Master of Biotechnology at the University of Queensland followed by a PhD from Griffith University in 2014. Todd uses his microscopic and imaging analysis skills to work with the team to analyse the outcomes of our therapy in pre-clinical models!
1) What is you name and where you are you from?
Dr Todd Shelper and I was born in Brisbane and moved to the Gold Coast to work on the Spinal Injury Project at Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Griffith University.
2) What is your current role within the Spinal Injury Project?
I am a research fellow and I work on understanding how cell therapies can be used to treat spinal cord injury in pre-clinical models. My expertise is in microscopy and imaging analysis and I work with the team to use the latest digitally advanced microscopes to analyse the outcomes from our pre-clinical models.
3) What outcomes are you hoping to achieve with your particular role?
The ultimate goal of my research is to produce high quality pre-clinical data from cell-based therapy studies. This data will hopefully be used to direct human clinical trials to successful outcomes for those living with spinal cord injuries.
4) What does a day ‘on the job’ look like for you?
Over the last 15 years my research has frequently involved the use of microscopy as a tool for understanding complex biology. I have always enjoyed looking down a microscope and seeing a snapshot in time of a living cell or an animal and perhaps observing an event that no one had ever seen before. As the saying goes ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’. A microscopic image can reveal novel insights into spinal cord injuries and help us understand how cell-based therapies can be best applied to deliver clinically significant outcomes. However, producing high quality imaging data that can be used to solve difficult biological questions often requires complex and time-consuming processes, so I work with an amazing team of scientists within the lab to help produce this research. The team works together to develop imaging methods and protocols that are used every day to produce robust scientific data. This process can involve many hours in the lab either processing samples, acquiring images behind a microscope or analysing huge datasets. A single experiment can require months of processing and produce tens of thousands of images.
5) What keeps you inspired with your work?
Being an academic researcher often involves many day-to-day challenges. However, it is the possibility that the research we are doing today may directly benefit people living with spinal injuries in the future that makes this work so rewarding and keeps me excited to come in to work every day. The resources we have access to in the lab give us a great chance in really making a difference in this field of research.
6) What are you most excited about working on the Spinal Injury Project?
The Spinal Injury Porject offers such a unique environment in which to discover novel methods of regenerative medicine. Having the ability to see at a single cell level how transplanted cells interact with a spinal cord injury site and promote nerve regeneration is still as exciting today as the first day I joined the team. The therapeutic approaches being developed within our group build on a foundation of solid scientific research and provide real hope to finding a cure for paralysis.
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