1. What is the innovation?

SUMMARY: The lifespan of an acute brain slice is approximately 6–12 hours, limiting potential experimentation time. We have designed a new recovery incubation system capable of extending their lifespan to more than 36 hours. This system controls the tissue environment in such a way that leads to the dramatic extension of the brain slice lifespan. This system benefits researchers by monitoring incubation conditions and standardizing this artificial environment. It further provides viable tissue for two experimental days, reducing the time spent preparing brain slices and the number of animals required for research.

INSPIRATION: Like all good research stories, this one started with “hmmm, that’s interesting”. Dr Yossi Buskila inadvertently left a brain slice under the microscope one night and returned the following day to find that the slice was still alive and well. Western Sydney University researchers, Associate Professor Paul Breen and Dr Yossi Buskila shared an office at the time and discussed how they may be able to replicate the conditions to keep these slices alive. Much trial and error followed before they found a set of conditions and developed a device which proved to maximize longevity. The Braincubator you see today is the result of that hard work.

2. What benefits does the innovation bring?

Time is money. Braincubator extends the viability of a brain slice up to 36 hours, and retinal tissue even longer. This saves researchers lots of preparation time and means the quality of the slice is better when they get to it. Labs that use a Braincubator get more from less, typically halving the number of animals sacrificed for the same amount of data.

3. What commercial success and/or benefit to society has it achieved?

Braincubators are now in use around the world, from the UK to USA and in several institutes across Australia.

4. What lessons learnt can you share?

ADVICE: Sales are everything. There is a big difference between having a great product and a great product that people bought.

MOTIVATION: Every unit saves animal lives while improving the necessary medical research that is done. Thats pretty good.

5. How many new jobs has this innovation created?

Very difficult to tell, we outsource some of the work and do the rest ourselves.