Stem Cells and Neural Development Laboratory
This laboratory has a broad interest in repairing the injured brain and places a strong emphasis on understanding neural development, with the idea that repairing the injured brain will require recapitulation of these early events. Major research themes running within the laboratory, include: understanding the neural development (notably wnt signalling); directed differentiation of pluripotent stem cells; molecular mechanisms underlying axonal targeting and synaptogenesis and improving cell-replacement therapy for neural injuries. While historically the major focus of the group has been on understanding dopamine development and developing cell replacement therapies for Parkinson’s, more recently the team has expanded its interests to apply similar approaches to Huntington’s disease and stroke. Much of this work is done in close collaboration with the laboratory of Dr Lachlan Thompson, based at the Florey Institute.
The laboratory has also developed a successful programme in neural engineering. The team is developing and testing bioengineered scaffolds with recent success focusing on GDNF tethered to a bioscaffold, which holds significant potential to enhance brain repair.
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.