The brain’s specialist cleaning cells play a key role in neurodegenerative diseases, and they may also hold the secret to new treatments for the likes of MS and Alzheimer’s.
Professor Colin Pouton and his team at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences found a way to isolate microglia, the immune cells of the brain, from stem cells. Better yet, they made the cells fluorescent so their activity can be tracked, opening up new avenues of research.
For the past decade scientists have been able to reprogram skin cells, nasal cells and other mature cells to become pluripotent stem cells that can turn into any cell type in the human body. How it works is only starting to become clear.
Teams led by Professors Ryan Lister at the University of Western Australia, Jose Polo at Monash University and Ernst Wolvetang at The University of Queensland are working together to understand how this process occurs, whether all cell types follow the same path to becoming pluripotent cells, and if this impacts their ability to mimic disease in the laboratory.
Dr Muireann Irish discovered which parts of our brain are essential to imagine the future, ranging from simple things like “I must remember my keys and my wallet” to imagining complex events such as “my next holiday”.
And she’s shown that people with dementia don’t just lose the ability to remember the past, they also lose the ability to envisage the future.
While working at Neuroscience Research Australia and the University of New South Wales, Muireann has demonstrated that patients with dementia are unable to imagine future events or to engage in future-oriented forms of memory, and she has revealed the key brain regions that support these complex functions.