Quick Project Snapshot

Does early life exposure to iron represent a risk for Parkinson’s disease?

Brain iron increases with age; a phenomenon that is further accelerated in Parkinson’s disease. Considering the relative impermeability of the blood-brain barrier to peripheral iron, it is unclear how and why this elevation in brain iron with age occurs, and why it is more pronounced in Parkinson’s disease. We hypothesise that key stages of brain development represent a critical window for maintaining healthy brain iron levels, and that iron overload in these periods increases the risk of age-related disease.  

Hypotheses:  

  1. Early life dietary intake of iron permanently elevates the brain iron content and thereby increases susceptibility to damage in ageing and parkinsonian neurodegeneration  
  2. The permanent record of early life iron exposure in teeth can be related to adult brain iron concentration.  

Specific aims:  

  1. To obtain baseline T2* MRI imaging of brains from living patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and relate to tooth iron concentration.
  2. To determine if early life iron exposure is correlated to the brain iron levels of the ageing brain
  3. To investigate if elevated brain iron levels in PD are a consequence in part of early life exposure or an independent disease-related event using early life dietary transitions as a marker of iron intake.
  4. To investigate if neurodegeneration observed in neonatal iron feeding models represents a suitable model for idiopathic PD that could potentially be arrested through iron chelation.
  5. To investigate if metal chelation will prevent neurodegeneration.

Pre-clinical Parkinson’s Disease Research Laboratory

This laboratory focuses on understanding the basic cellular functions and the changes in functions of cells that result in the spectrum of Parkinsonian disorders, such as that occurs in, Parkinson’s disease, Parkinson’s disease dementia and multiple system atrophy.  We are particularly interested in the biology of iron and copper in these diseases and how they interact with alpha-synuclein to produce the wide range of symptoms and pathologies observed within these disorders.

In conjunction with Prana Biotechnology we are able to explore novel compounds that have the potential to move towards novel therapeutics. One compound we helped select has completed pre-clinical testing in the laboratory.  This compound is undergoing toxicology testing, safety trials in humans for this compound are being planned for the near future.

We utilise a number of techniques within the laboratory, such as in vivo mouse models of  disease,  animal behaviour, aseptic surgery, microdialysis, multi-electrode arrays for electrophysiology, cell culture (primary cultures, cell lines), western blot, advance microscopy and  histological work (stereology) utilising  both animal and donated human tissues. The overall aim of this laboratory is to use the cellular knowledge of Parkinsonian disorders to development new therapeutic directions.

PhD student projects are available.

This Laboratory is currently supported by: NHMRC, ARC, Prana Biotechnology, MJ Fox and Shake it up Foundation, Parkinson’s UK and has strong ties with Parkinson’s Victoria.

All Projects by this Lab

Does early life exposure to iron represent a risk for Parkinson’s disease?Overcoming the sprouting limit of axons in the brain - using biomaterials for the treatment of Parkinson's disease
CO-HEAD OF DIVISION

Professor Philip Beart

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CO-HEAD OF DIVISION

Prof Colin Masters

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Biophysics Laboratory

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Dr Simon Drew

Oxidation Biology Unit

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Prof Ashley Bush

Prana Laboratory

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Dr Robert Cherny

Neurodegeneration

Scientists in the Neurodegeneration division interrogate how neurones live, die and can be rescued to improve brain function in degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s and Motor Neuron Diseases. There is no effective treatment for Motor Neurone Disease and the incidence of Parkinson’s Disease is rising alarmingly in our aging community. Gene abnormalities, energy deprivation, toxic rubbish accumulation and inflammation all contribute to a toxic environment for brain cells. Our teams study these events in animal models and cultured cells, with a view to translating knowledge into new therapies for human patients.

All Labs that operate in this Division

Atomic Pathology LaboratoryBiophysics LaboratoryCellular Neurodegeneration LaboratoryCreutzfeldt Jakob Disease Clinical Research GroupMolecular Gerontology LaboratoryMotor Neurone Disease LaboratoryNational Dementia Diagnostics LaboratoryNeurochemistry of Metal IonsNeurogenesis and Neural Transplantation LaboratoryNeuropathology and Neurodegeneration LaboratoryNeuroproteomics and Metalloproteomics LaboratoryNeurotherapeutics LaboratoryOxidation Biology UnitParkinson's Disease LaboratoryPrana LaboratoryPre-clinical Parkinson’s Disease Research LaboratoryPresynaptic Physiology Stem Cells and Neural Development LaboratorySteroid Neurobiology LaboratorySynaptic Neurobiology LaboratoryThe Australian Imaging Biomarker and Lifestyle Study (AIBL)