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The 2021 RHT Bates Postgraduate Scholarship has been awarded to Matthew Goodwin

PhD project overview. Applicant's own image.

This scholarship will support Matthew’s PhD project at the University of Auckland, to evaluate articular cartilage degeneration using polarisation-sensitive optical fourier domain imaging.

Osteoarthritis is one of the most debilitating diseases in Western society. The economic and sociological burden has necessitated research to gain a deeper understanding of the disease and work towards a cure. Currently, there is a gap in the imaging domain to non-invasively examine the integrity of the tissue. Such a device would drastically impact both the researcher and the clinician.

A potential candidate to fill this hole is optical fourier domain imaging (OFDI). OFDI can be considered an analogue to ultrasound where light is used instead of sound waves. Non-invasive images are reconstructed in a similar fashion and the resolution is an order of magnitude better and approaches that of a microscope. The PhD project involves building and optimising an OFDI imaging platform and then evaluate its potential as a non-invasive cartilage assessment tool.

The research focuses on 3 main goals (Figure 3). The first two goals revolve around understanding the disease mechanics and how they present in various animal models using this novel imaging approach. The two goals culminate in the third: the development of an in situ probe which can image and evaluate articular cartilage integrity.

Where a diagnosis of Osteoarthritis cannot be specifically traced back to a single event, it is known as primary osteoarthritis and most commonly occurs in the elderly due to 'wear and tear' of the tissue. Secondary osteoarthritis (also known as Post-traumatic Osteoarthritis (PTOA)) is more common in young-to-middle-aged individuals and often is a result of acute joint trauma where excessive forces experienced in the joint leads to localised cartilage damage. While both types of Osteoarthritis lead to the same clinical symptom of pain, the degenerative pathways and purpose for using OFDI to image the tissue are significantly different and can be studied by employing two animal models.

Knowledge gained and biomarkers identified from the previous two goals will result in the development of a probe that will have both clinical and research relevance.

About the RHT Bates Postgraduate Scholarship

This is a study award of $6,000 for a PhD in the Physical Sciences and Engineering in a New Zealand university.