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Work being done on a farm outside of Rotorua has the potential to change, and save, the lives of hundreds of Kiwis and potentially millions globally

Just outside of Rotorua is a sheep farm that looks like any other. Until you climb the stairs of a big shed and peer inside a small room that is a surgery, where the sheep are operated on.

Look closely at the sheep in the pens and you might see that they have small scars on their heads.

They are the pioneers of research that is set to change - and save - the lives of hundreds of Kiwis and potentially millions of people around the world who have the brain-swelling condition hydrocephalus.

The diagnostic device at the centre of this research is a tiny implant in the brain and a wireless wand that is held over the head. It's been successfully tested on the sheep and is about to take the momentous next step to human trials, first on adults and then children.

It is the result of 20 years of research by a team at Auckland University's Bioengineering Department and the university's medical technology company, Kitea Health. If the human trials are successful, the device could be in New Zealand clinics and used by patients with hydrocephalus next year.

A key part of the process is the welfare of the sheep, overseen by the university's vet and animal welfare officer, Dr Jodi Salinsky. 

"We take great, great, great pains to ensure in the ethics applications that the animals are well cared for their whole lives, that we respect them and that we treat them as well as they can possibly be treated," says Salinsky, who is keen to emphasise the team's deep feelings for the animals.


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