22 Aug 2018

Spotlight on our NHMRC Fellowship winners: Associate Professor Sandy Shultz

A/Prof Sandy Shultz
Department of Neuroscience
by Anne Crawford

Associate Professor Sandy Shultz. Career Development Fellowship to: conduct innovative translational studies into mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI).

Mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI) such as concussions affect millions of people worldwide. They are common on the sporting field and in military operations, and can occur as a result of anything from vehicle accidents to slips and falls in the home. Growing evidence is showing that repeated brain injuries are associated with lasting neurological impairments and neurodegenerative disease.

Yet the underlying pathophysiology of these effects is poorly understood.

Associate Professor Sandy Shultz has been awarded an NHMRC fellowship to advance the translational research into mTBI he has been pursuing for more than six years.

His research team will use a variety of methods including collecting saliva and blood, and conducting brain imaging, to find a way of accurately diagnosing or identifying when a mTBI has occurred.

“Next, we want to be able to identify when the brain has adequately recovered so that we’re allowing players to return to play when it’s safe and they won’t be at increased vulnerability to having repeated concussions and be a risk of long-term detrimental effects,” Assoc. Professor Shultz said.

The researchers have conducted considerable initial work in animal models with “very promising results. The methods we’ve applied can be easily applied to humans,” he said. “They’re non-invasive and clinically available.”

They have also established human studies.

“My direction for the duration of the funding is to really push what we’ve found in preclinical models and begin to engage in clinical trials and figure out a way to actively intervene in the patient population.”

Assoc. Professor Shultz said the long-term effects of repeated mTBIs could be devastating.

“They’ve been associated with a number of different neurological degenerative conditions,” he said. “But even if it doesn’t escalate, concussion can result in lost days at work and affects children with regards to their education.”

Concussions were also hard to prevent.

“There’s so much passion for collision sports, it’s hard to imagine a world when people aren’t participating in them,” he said.

Assoc. Professor Shultz said he was “honoured and relieved” to be awarded the Fellowship.
“These fellowships are highly competitive and it’s nice to be recognised by my peers as making a positive contribution to science and medicine,” he said. “I’m also thankful for the great support that offered by the administrators of the Central Clinical School – from the research office all the way through to the Head of Department.”

Sandy Shultz is an Associate Professor in the Van Cleef Centre for Nervous Diseases, Department of Neuroscience, and Group leader of the Shultz research lab. He studied neuroscience at University of Western Ontario, Canda, before coming to Australia in 2011 to join the Royal Melbourne Hospital and University of Melbourne as a Senior Researcher. His research focuses on the effects, underlying pathophysiological mechanisms, biomarkers, and treatments of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and related conditions. 

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