Our human brain bank: A rich research resource
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The Neurological Foundation Douglas Human Brain Bank has one of the most extensive collections of human brain tissue in the Southern Hemisphere. Founded in 1994 and based at the University of Auckland’s Centre for Brain Research, the brain bank holds tissue from over 650 donated brains.
Most of our understanding of neurological disease today has been obtained through researchers painstakingly examining human brain tissue. In this FREE public lecture, Sue Giddens of the Neurological Foundation will interview two dynamic brain researchers who work each day to unravel the mysteries of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s by studying tissue from our brain bank. Associate Professor Maurice Curtis and Dr Malvindar Singh – Bains will share exciting insights into their respective areas of research, enabled by this exceptional and very special resource.
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Associate Professor Maurice Curtis
Maurice Curtis grew up in rural New Zealand before moving to Auckland to study radiography. After completing radiography training he studied for a Masters of Science degree at the University of Auckland focusing on stem cell transplantation for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders such as Huntington’s disease. Continuing on from this, Maurice completed a PhD in Anatomy and Pharmacology under the guidance of Professor Richard Faull and investigated whether or not the human brain had the capacity to make new brain cells, which is a phenomenon thought not to exist in the brain. The findings from his PhD were groundbreaking since he discovered that in human brains affected by Huntington’s disease there is a massive increase in the amount of new brain cell production – as the brain attempts to repair itself. These studies were published in a number of prominent journals and set the scene for much of the remarkable work that followed.
In addition to receiving the University of Auckland’s Best Thesis Award, Maurice was also awarded the Neurological Foundation Philip Wrightson Postdoctoral Fellowship to work on stem cells in the brain at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden with Professor Peter Eriksson. During his work in Sweden, Maurice, together with colleagues in New Zealand including Professor Faull, discovered a long distance migratory pathway that stem cells in the brain migrate through. This has been a discovery of much interest and was reported around the world and published in the prestigious Science journal.
Maurice maintains close ties with the researchers in Sweden and other parts of Europe. He is currently employed as an Associate Professor and the Director of Human Anatomy in the Centre for Brain Research at the University of Auckland where he continues to research brain stem cells, stem cell migration, neurodegenerative diseases and neurorehabilitation. Maurice has been a recipient of the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences prize for early career excellence in teaching, and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2014.
Maurice is the Deputy Director of the Neurological Foundation Douglas Human Brain Bank, working closely with brain bank Director Distinguished Professor Richard Faull.
Maurice has greatly assisted the Neurological Foundation in raising awareness of the importance of brain research by presenting public lectures in numerous towns and cities around New Zealand for the past ten years.
Dr Malvindar Singh- Bains
Dr. Malvindar Singh-Bains is a Freemasons Research Fellow at the University of Auckland Centre for Brain Research, currently focusing on neuroinflammation in neurodegenerative conditions including Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s Disease. Malvindar has been a top-three finalist in both 2015 and 2016 for the University of Auckland Young New Zealander of the year award for her ongoing commitment to promoting brain health and awareness of neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s Disease. She was recently awarded the Kiwi Indian Hall of Fame Young Achiever award for 2016 by the Indian High Commisioner to NZ.
She has also been the recipient of two prestigious University of Auckland scholarships for her undergraduate degree and PhD studies; focusing on research into Huntington’s Disease. Malvindar has presented her research at the World Congress of Huntington’s Disease held in Rio de Janeiro in 2013, and at the Hereditary Disease Foundation Conference at Boston, Massachusetts in 2014, where she was one of the youngest speakers to give an international platform presentation. Her Huntington’s research has been recently accepted into one of the top five clinical neurology journals in the world, Annals of Neurology; a major accomplishment for a young kiwi researcher. In 2013, Malvindar co-founded, and is the co-chair of, the Huntington’s Disease Youth Organization New Zealand (HDYO-NZ); a registered charity dedicated to support, educate and advocate for young New Zealanders impacted by HD.
In her spare time, Malvindar focuses on promoting positive brain health awareness amongst young people, and has visited several schools (including Marshal Laing Primary School, Manurewa Intermediate, Blockhouse Bay Intermediate, Waikowhai Primary School, Waitakere College, Pinehurst School, and Rototuna Primary School, St Kentigern school among many others) over the past six years to help promote the importance of “looking after your brain.” As a kiwi-Indian Sikh female neuroscientist, Malvindar practices “seva”, or service, through advocating brain health awareness in all communities, ranging from Baptist churches to Sikh Gurudwaras; inclusive of all walks of life. She has been invited by the World Council of Sikh Affairs to give a presentation about Brain Health, Brain Anatomy, and Brain Diseases at Gurdwara Sri Guru Teg Bahadur in Papatoetoe to an audience ranging from 3-83 years of age. Malvindar has also been a speaker at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Hamilton to 200 elderly people as part of the “60+ Continuing Education” programme. Malvindar is a strong advocate for disseminating scientific information to the public, as evidenced by her long list of public engagements including the Western Leader, Tearaway Magazine, The Northern Advocate, BBC radio, 95bFM radio, Radio New Zealand 9 to noon, and a documentary on TV3 “Both Worlds.”