MCRI's Dr Sean Humphrey with Thermo FIsher Product Application Support Engineer Katharina Huber and Vice President and General Manager (Aus and NZ) Domenic Stranieri

Cutting-edge equipment that will help accelerate research into children’s diseases from brain cancer to muscular dystrophy has now been installed at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. 

The first Thermo Scientific™ Orbitrap™ Astral™ Mass Spectrometer (MS) installed in Australia, and one of the first in the world, will enable researchers to study proteins faster and with more precision, accelerating discoveries into stem cells and childhood diseases.

The instrument can quantify the abundance of 15,000 proteins – almost all proteins expressed in the human cell – in just 4.5 hours. 

MCRI’s Associate Professor Sean Humphrey (pictured above, with Thermo Fisher Product Application Support Engineer Katharina Huber and Vice President and General Manager - Australia and New Zealand, Domenic Stranieri) said the capabilities of this cutting-edge new instrument would enable his lab to vastly increase the scale of studies that could be performed to uncover new insights. 

Associate Professor Humphrey's research focuses on developing new ways to study proteins and how they are modified in the cell by a process called ‘phosphorylation’.  

Protein phosphorylation is key to many cellular processes that keep our body healthy. But disruptions to the process can contribute to disease. 

“The Orbitrap Astral Mass Spectrometer will allow us to understand where changes in phosphorylation have occurred, and how this is linked to disease,” Associate Professor Humphrey said. “This can give us information about the disease as well as potential targets for therapies, such as new drugs.” 

One of the group’s first projects is a collaboration with Professor David Eisenstat and Professor Silvia Velasco towards understanding disease mechanisms in the most common malignant childhood brain tumour, medulloblastoma. 

“Working with leading experts at MCRI, combined with the power of this new equipment will drive discoveries that could lead to effective new treatments for devastating childhood diseases,” Associate Professor Humphrey said.

Thermo Fisher Scientific’s Vice President and General Manager for Australia and New Zealand, Domenic Stranieri, said he was personally inspired by the unlimited potential of pairing world class researchers with advanced technology.

“The work of the amazing researchers at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute is globally renowned and we are incredibly proud to play a role in enabling them to pioneer and accelerate research that will hopefully one day eradicate many childhood diseases,” he said.

The acquisition of the Orbitrap Astral Mass Spectrometer was made possible through support from The Stafford Fox Medical Research Foundation and the Estate of Patricia Mary Gleeson.