Current activities

Neuroregeneration Laboratory

Pathogenesis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease

For more information, contact Professor Xin-Fu Zhou and Dr Larisa Bobrovskaya

  • We are investigating how p75 and its toxic ligands (e.g. amyloid beta and proneurotrophins) cause pathologies of amyloid plaques (amyloidogenesis) and neurofibrillary tangles ( tau hyperphosphorylation) using neuron and animal models. We are also examining these factors in the post-mortem brain of human patients with Alzheimer’s disease and determining how p75 signals in response to neurodegenerative ligands.
  • We are investigating the role of sortlin in the formation of amyloid plaque in an animal model of Alzheimer’s disease. We are also investigating how sortilin plays a role in lysomal function and lysosomal genesis.
  • We have discovered that the ischemic stroke drug anti-oxidant edaravone can bind with Abeta and has strong disease modifying effects for Alzheimer’s disease. As edaravone is only available for intravenous infusion, we are developing novel formulations for oral edavavone intake. We will continue to test formulations in vivo and assess its safety in animals. Once this work has been completed, we will perform a clinical trial of edaravone for the treatment of neurological disorders.
  • We have discovered that the molecule p75ECD is a neuroprotective molecule for Alzheimer’s disease. We are investigating the suitability of this molecule as a drug candidate for Alzheimer’s disease by examining its distribution in vivo, pharmacokinetics, side effects, and efficacy in animal models of Alzheimer’s disease.

Therapy for organ failure

For more information, contact Professor Xin-Fu Zhou and Dr Larisa Bobrovskaya

  • We have discovered that mouse fibroblasts can be reprogrammed by small molecules into neural stem cells. We will further generate human neural stem cells from human fibroblasts and human urine cells. Human urine cells will also be reprogrammed with small molecules to other somatic tissue cells for therapy of organ failures such as diabetes and liver insufficiency.

Pathogenesis of depression

For more information, contact Professor Xin-Fu Zhou and Dr Larisa Bobrovskaya

  • We are elucidating how proBDNF may be detrimental for depression and how to develop effective therapy for the treatment of major depression by restoring the imbalance between mature BDNF and proBDNF.

Neurophysiology of Human Movement Laboratory

Illicit Drug Use and Brain Control of Movement

Use of the illicit stimulant drugs methamphetamine and ecstasy is a significant problem in Australia and around the world. The acute effects of these drugs on health and social interaction has been well documented. However, little is known about the long-lasting consequences. Our group is investigating the long-lasting consequences of methamphetamine and ecstasy use on movement and the structure and function of movement-related brain regions.

For further information, please contact Dr Gabrielle Todd or Professor Jason White.

Early Disease Mechanisms and Diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is difficult to diagnose because there is currently no diagnostic test and the motor signs do not appear until up to 80% of the dopaminergic cells in the substantia nigra have been lost. Our group is investigating early disease mechanisms in Parkinson’s disease and how these may be used to enable earlier and more accurate diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. The research involves identifying individuals at significant risk of developing Parkinson’s disease and investigating movement and the structure and function of movement-related brain regions in these individuals. For further information, please contact Dr Gabrielle Todd.

Substance Use and Pregnancy Laboratory

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)

For more information, contact Dr Andrea Fielder

  • Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome is the sudden cut-off of supply of a drug that the mother used during pregnancy. If not properly treated this results in significant morbidity, and in extreme cases, infant mortality. Long infant hospital stays also disrupt mother-infant bonding in already vulnerable mother-infant relationships. We are investigating potential genetic markers for predicting NAS. These include immune markers and markers related to drug transporters and receptors. By being better able to predict NAS, this will assist the mother to be better prepared for potential adverse outcomes associated with NAS but most importantly will potentially allow for preventative NAS treatment.
  • We are investigating improved treatment strategies for NAS. This includes different medications and different dosing regimes in order to reduce the duration of treatment and shorten infant hospital stays in order to improve mother infant bonding opportunities.

Therapies and care models for substance use disorders in pregnancy

For more information, contact Dr Andrea Fielder

  • We are investigating better ways to manage substance use in pregnancy including medication assisted therapies such as methadone and buprenorphine, as well as cognitive therapies such as acceptance commitment therapy. This will allow for more improved antenatal care for the mother and fetus and improved neonatal outcomes for the baby.
  • We are investigating comprehensive models of care for substance using pregnant and parenting women and their families. These models of care focus not only on antenatal care and the substance use disorder itself, but also improving job, lifestyle and parenting skills. These models of care are intended to break the intergenerational cycle of substance use.

Alcohol consumption in pregnancy

For more information, contact Dr Andrea Fielder

  • We are investigating and developing public health interventions to reduce alcohol consumption in pregnancy. As there is no known safe level of alcohol consumption in pregnancy, even small amounts of alcohol have the potential to impact fetal development. By making more women aware of this and providing them with alternatives to drinking, this has the potential to reduce the number of women who continue to drink during pregnancy and any potential adverse effects on fetal development.

Areas of study and research

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