Many adult brain disorders have their genesis during the assembly of brain cells in the fetus. Therefore, the understanding of how new brain cells are generated and connected together is pivotal to preventing and treating these disorders. The underlying drivers of brain cell assembly are undoubtedly genetic, but the outcomes are also shaped by environmental influences. Our laboratory has been studying the roles of Reelin, Sez-6, and Ndfip1. Separately, each of these genes is important for controlling neuronal proliferation, neuronal migration and dendritic maturation. Reelin is important for governing the way new neurons migrate to their destinations and are organized. Sez-6 is important for controlling the branching of neurons and connecting them together. Ndfip1 has a pivotal role in influencing the generation of new neurons. Together, these studies accrue fundamental and detailed information behind the assembly of brain cells in the developing embryo.

While the birth and maturation of brain cells are important for proper neurological function, their survival and protection against noxious stimuli are equally vital for the preservation of neuron number and brain function. For example, perinatal hypoxia poses a significant risk to neuron survival during birth. Our work with brain injury models have identified an intrinsic defense mechanism that protects brain cells from death following injury from hypoxia, trauma and ischemia. Our discovery that Ndfip1 is neuroprotective in brain injury is now replicated in stroke, suggesting that neuroprotection by Ndfip1 is a generic and conserve mechanism for defending the brain. This has spurred our research activity to higher levels, focussing on biochemical and molecular mechanisms that underscore Ndfip1 function. Our over-riding aim is to discover how Ndfip1 activity can be controlled by pharmacological means with the view of therapeutic benefit to future sufferers of brain injury from trauma and stroke.

Members of the Team have also engaged in strong collaborative activity leading to published works in the field of neuron transcription (Hamish Scott), cocaine addiction (Andrew Lawrence), Alzheimer’s Disease (Colin Masters), epilepsy (Steve Petrou) and retina development (Michael Kalloniatis).


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Collaborative Links


Prof Perry Bartlett
Queensland Brain Institute, University of Queensland
Generation of neurons in the adult and embryo

Prof Pankaj Sah
Queensland Brain Institute, University of Queensland
Electrophysiology of brain cells lacking Sez-6

Prof Sharad Kumar
Hanson Centre, IMVS, Adelaide
The role of Ndfip1 in brain injury

Prof David Vaux
Department of Biochemistry, La Trobe University
Neuroprotective functions of Ndfip1

Dr John Silke
Department of Biochemistry, La Trobe University
Biochemistry and molecular biology of Ndfip1

A/Prof Cristina Morganti-Kossmann
National Trauma Research Institute, Alfred Hospital and Monash University


Dr Zoltan Molnar
University of Oxford, England
Thalamocortical innervation of mutant cortex

Prof Baoli Yang
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Carver College of Medicine, Iowa City, USA
The role of Ndfip1 gene in brain development