The following grants were approved prior to July 2016
Modelling Huntington’s Disease: Using direct cell reprogramming to study the mechanisms underlying a complex genetic neurodegenerative disorder
Creating a model of Huntington’s disease from patient skin cells to further understand the underlying mechanisms and cell death involved in this disorder
Huntington’s Disease (HD) is a highly debilitating genetic neurodegenerative disorder which is characterised by the progressive loss of specific brain cells. What drives this specific cell loss remains largely unknown, and consequently there is no treatment for this disease. Ms Monk’s project aims to generate a model of HD by reprogramming skin cells from patients into the specific brain cell type lost in this condition. This model will provide a novel platform for elucidating the complex mechanisms contributing to brain cell death, and will play an important role in the development of treatments for HD.
Recent onset transient or episodic headaches with concerning features: risk prediction, pre-test probability, and imaging selection
Differentiating patients with headache to identify serious and life-threatening brain bleeds
Episodic headaches are a widely experienced complaint. While the majority are due to benign processes, some headaches can herald serious and life‐threatening diseases. One such cause is a type of brain bleed known as a subarachnoid haemorrhage that can present initially as a ‘sentinel bleed’. This research aims to investigate the proportion of patients presenting with transient headache and concerning features that are later confirmed to have these serious brain bleeds. This information will help to identify these patients so that they receive the appropriate scans and treatment in a timely fashion that reduces potential serious illness.
Investigating inflammation in the Alzheimer’s Disease Olfactory Bulb
Investigating early inflammatory changes and their influences in the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease
While the most widely known symptom of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is short term memory loss, one of the earliest symptoms is often a loss of the sense of smell. This symptom, known as anosmia, is thought to be due to olfactory neuron degeneration or insufficient replacement of olfactory neurons throughout life. Ms Swanson’s research will test the hypothesis that AD pathology is triggered by inflammatory processes in the olfactory bulb by studying post-mortem human brain tissue from the Neurological Foundation Human Brain Bank and using cultured cells. Ultimately, this research will provide insight into early changes occurring in the AD brain which will aid early detection and therapeutic intervention.
Does sAPPα give neuroprotection through its interaction with BACE 1, the enzyme involved in the production of the neurotoxic amyloid β peptide?
Can the interaction of proteins involved in Alzheimer’s disease produce a protective factor?
Late onset Alzheimer’s disease is a growing social and economic burden worldwide and in New Zealand. As yet there are no effective therapies or early intervention treatments. Small soluble aggregates of a peptide are believed to be the toxic species that destroys neurons and impairs memory in Alzheimer’s disease. This peptide is processed from the same large protein as another protein that by contrast restores memory. This neuroprotective protein may bind and inhibit the enzyme that produces the toxic peptide. This project will explore this interaction for the potential of the development of a therapeutic agent or treatment.
Inter-cellular mitochondrial transfer: A cell survival mechanism in response to disease and therapy in neural tissues
The death or survival of brain cells in disease: investigating the biological processes
A striking recent discovery in cell biology is the transfer of mitochondria between cells. Mitochondria are the ‘batteries’ of cells. Mitochondrial transfer has now been shown in a variety of research settings, however the purpose or consequences of this phenomenon are not yet clear. Mr Rowe’s research will examine mitochondrial transfer in two related diseases – neurodegeneration and neurological cancer. Each disease involves the same neural tissues, however the outcomes in each are vastly different - death of the cells in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, or survival and proliferation of the cells in cancer. This under- explored, likely fundamental biological process has implications for treatment strategies in both neuro-oncology and neurodegeneration.