CHIMERA on tour as Wellington, Cripton collaboration in high demand

MRI images of the brain on film.

Since publishing their first paper on the Closed-Head Impact Model of Engineered Rotational Acceleration Model of Engineered Rotational Acceleration (CHIMERA) model for concussion research in 2014, Dr. Cheryl Wellington and colleagues have delivered more than 15 copies of the model worldwide. Last month, following a January 2019 paper further demonstrating its efficacy, they shipped and delivered three CHIMERA devices, and postdoctoral fellow Dr. Tom Cheng travelled to labs in Washington, Florida, and Japan to provide training opportunities for other researchers in using the tool.

Pictured: CHIMERA schematic. Image source: Dr. Tom Cheng.

CHIMERA was developed through a partnership between Dr. Wellington and Dr. Peter Cripton, and represents one of several productive collaborations between the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health and the School of Biomedical Engineering. CHIMERA provides conditions that are clinically similar to traumatic brain injury (TBI), reproducing concussion-like injuries using a mechanically precise impact that leads to unrestricted head rotation, similar to most human concussions. CHIMERA is a unique tool in that allows researchers to induce a concussion-like experience in TBI models and study the impacts across a long period of time.

The team’s January paper, published in the journal Alzheimer's Research & Therapy, showed that repeated mild TBI affects spatial learning and memory in mice for up to almost a year post-concussion. In mice with Alzheimer’s disease-like pathology, concussion reduced the brain’s ability to extinguish fear memory, leading to behaviours suggesting post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In addition to being an important tool in furthering our understanding of TBI pathology, CHIMERA is taking Wellington lab trainees around the world in an effort to train new users. Dr. Cheng led workshops in three cities on his most recent CHIMERA tour.

“I think directly engaging with other researchers and learning what they like about our model is valuable,” said Dr. Cheng. “It is particularly satisfying to see that our research findings are reproducible across different labs. Being on site can be challenging, but it’s beneficial for me to lead the training in person as I occasionally need to improvise and make adjustments in person due to facility differences or delivery issues.”

PhD candidate Asma Bashir will travel to the United States later this month to continue the Wellington lab’s workshops and training.

“The most rewarding part of bringing CHIMERA to new labs is that to our knowledge, everyone’s been satisfied with it,” said Dr. Cheng. “This has been a great opportunity to share our technology, but also to learn about how the tool is being used in other labs; one good thing about working in academia is that there’s a real eagerness to share research and compare notes.”