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Retiree Des Calthorpe became a human guinea pig to help others and cure diseases


November 16, 2018 13:44:09

Pinched, poked and prodded – that's what a brisbane man regularly volunteers for offering up his body in the service of medical research.

Since retiring, grandfather Des Calthorpe uses his free time to help medical researchers with human clinical trials.

Mr Calthorpe began dedicating his time to research after hearing an interview on his local ABC radio station.

"A professor was talking about a study about how exercise can grow new brain neurons.

"They had done the study with the mice but then they wanted to undertake human trials so I thought 'why not?'

"It involved an exercise three times a week at University of Queensland (UQ) at the same time they were doing brain tests, and it was really interesting."

He said that spurred him on to sign-up for other trials.

"I'm about to go through my 21st research study in the last two years so I am the human guinea pig now," he said.

Testing in a cold room

Mr Calthorpe had done the trials with the Queensland Brain Institute at UQ as well as Prince Charles Hospital Foundation.

One of the most interesting tests involved in locked in a cold room.

"I was in shorts and a t-shirt and they locked me in a room for two hours and turned the temperature down to 10-degrees and put a fan on me," he told ABC Radio Brisbane.

"I was told that for the first ten minutes I would shiver but after that would be fine.

"When 10 minutes came up I thought 'great I'm no longer shivering this is fantastic', but it only lasted for 30 seconds and then for the next two hours I shivered."

The researchers were looking at the effect of paracetamol on older people and body temperature.

"If your [temperature] lowers too much you can risk a hypothermia, "he said.

"When you get older you pop more paracetamol and [the researchers] wanted to see the effect it has. "

'Probe stuck up my rear end'

Some of the testing involves more discomfort than just shivering.

During the tests Mr Calthorpe is often has multiple vital signs monitored.

"I'm never just sitting there, I have an oxygen mask on so they can measure the oxygen levels, and you're constantly having your blood pressure taken," he said.

"I've also had a probe into my rear end to take my core body temperature."

He said all the studies must be passed before the human trials start.

One test involved food – but it was not what Mr Calthorpe expected.

"I thought there would be gourmet food everywhere, but researchers had 24 eye-droppers with clear fluid in them," he said.

"We had to put them on our tongue to tell them if it was salty, sour or sweet."

'A great deal of satisfaction'

The former hardware store owner originally thought that after retiring he would jump straight into travel, but it was put aside for a moment.

"We will travel, but I had worked for so long and in my field, I never had time for hobbies," he said.

"I wondered what I would do, but then [clinical trials] Come up and now I can not keep up with them. "

He said he liked he knowing he was helping others.

"I really do get satisfaction out of knowing that I'm doing something that might help people with dementia or parkinson's," he said.

"Most of the ones I have done have been with the Queensland Brain Institute.

"There's not a great deal of personal benefit, it's more satisfaction in knowing that in the long run I'm helping people."



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