Quick Project Snapshot

Rapid animal models of Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease is a debilitating disorder, classically characterised by progressive and selective loss of dopaminergic neurons within the Substantia Nigra. By the time a patient presents with motor symptoms 60-70% of the nigral dopaminergic neurons have already been destroyed. Although current pharmacotherapies offer some effectiveness in early stages of disease, these medications offer only symptomatic relief and fail to protect the remaining neurons from eventual degeneration. Devising therapeutics that address not only the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease but also the cause (so called ‘disease modifiers’) are of vital importance. While mammalian-based Parkinson’s disease research is clearly a necessary step, sole reliance on mammalian models limits the rate at which new therapeutics can be identified. More rapid whole animal screening technologies are needed to develop therapeutics. We have identified the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as being highly suited for studying neurodegeneration, genetic interactions and drug mode-of-action.


The project: To characterise neuro-restorative compounds in rapid Caenorhabditis elegans models of dopaminergic cell loss.


·      Characterise newly identified cell death inhibitors in novel animal models of dopaminergic cell loss.

·      Investigate cell signaling pathways for effects on dopaminergic cell loss and subsequent neuroprotection by compounds.




Suitable for PhD or MSc

Dr Gawain Mccoll

Molecular Gerontology Laboratory

Ageing is universal in multicellular organisms. How ageing and lifespan can be modulated is an area of significant scientific interest. By reducing complexity and time scale, the study of simple organisms has provided a wealth of information about the biochemical systems that contribute to the ageing process. The nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans has numerous advantages for the study of the biology of ageing.

These nematodes are microscopic (~1 mm), self-fertilizing, free living, and easily cultured in the laboratory. Benefits of this model system include: a short three-day life cycle, 14-day natural lifespan, highly developed genetic tools, fully characterised cell lineage, and an open research community. Despite its simplicity, conservation of genetic and disease pathways between C. elegans and higher eukaryotes make it an effective in vivo model for study ageing and disease pathogenesis and the preeminent model system for genetic manipulation of ageing.

Work using this model first demonstrated that single genes and compounds could dramatically modulate life span and the rate of ageing.

All Projects by this Lab

Rapid animal models of Parkinson’s diseaseNew animal models of Alzheimer’s diseaseIron and Biological AgeingSupport Cells and Dopaminergic Neurons


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 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 LaboratoryParkinson's Disease 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)