Quick Project Snapshot

What causes a neuron to die? Investigating the essential role of selenium nutrition in neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s

Selenium is an essential trace element required for normal development. Curiously, out of the entire human genome of ~22,000 genes we only have 25 genes that encode for selenium containing proteins.

This indicates an evolutionarily conserved function for selenium proteins. We have recently connected a newly discovered pathway for cell death known as ferroptosis to a key antioxidant selenium enzyme. The enzyme is known as glutathione peroxidase 4 (GPX4) and is a master regulator of ferroptoisis. 

Ferroptosis was discovered as a new form of cell death in cancer cells. Oxidative stress and selenium nutrition are intimately linked to the incidence and progression of cancer.

The brain has a unique requirement for selenium and the levels of selenium in brain tissue are implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease.

This project involves the use of modern cutting edge ‘omics’ technology (e.g. Proteomics and Metallomics) to investigate the role of selenium containing proteins in human Alzheimer’s disease tissue.

Dr Blaine Roberts

Neuroproteomics and Metalloproteomics Laboratory

The Neuroproteomics and Metalloproteomics Laboratory focuses on using proteomics to understand Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.  The group has a particular interest in understanding the role of metals in biology and has developed new proteomic technologies to measure metalloproteins. Further, this group is using proteomics to characterize new blood borne biomarkers for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

All Projects by this Lab

Biomarker discovery for Neurodegenerative diseaseUnderstanding the natural biology of Aß peptides in human brainWhat causes a neuron to die? Investigating the essential role of selenium nutrition in neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’sBioanalytical tools to investigate the role of metalloproteins in Alzheimer’s disease and Motor Neuron Disease


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)