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.
Professor James Bourne and his team are laying the groundwork for using stem cell transplants to treat brain trauma with the discovery of an anti-scarring agent and new biomaterials to support transplanted cells.
“What we’re doing is a prelude to direct stem cell research. We hope to give potential stem cell therapies for brain trauma the best chance of success,” James says.
He and his team at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute at Monash University are studying nonhuman primates to understand how to create the best environments for repair after brain injury. Continue reading Building tools for brain repair→
Chronic pain affects around 20 per cent of the world’s population at any one time. It is the most common reason people seek medical help in Australia. Chronic pain often goes hand in hand with anxiety and depression.
Short chains of amino acids—known as peptides—may offer hope. A collaboration between neurobiologists at The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health at The University of Melbourne and CNRS units affiliated with the Universities of Bordeaux and Strasbourg has made significant progress towards an entirely new approach to treating pain.
“Trait-based ecology” enables Macquarie University’s Mark Westoby to explain patterns of species occurrence and abundance and to understand the impacts of climate change and changing patterns of land use. He received the $55,000 NSW Scientist of the Year.
Nanocapsules for drugs delivery: Frank Caruso is making miniature capsules that could better deliver drugs for cancer, AIDS and cardiovascular diseases. He won one of the 2014 Victoria Prizes for Science & Innovation worth $50,000.
Sam Berkovic and Ingrid Scheffer have changed the way the world thinks about epilepsy, a debilitating condition that affects about 50 million people.
Twenty years ago doctors tended to regard most forms of epilepsy as acquired rather than inherited. In other words, they believed epilepsy was mostly due to injury: the result of things like a crack on the head in a car accident, a bad fall in the playground, a tumour, or something having gone wrong in labour. Parents felt responsible and the resulting guilt was enormous.
The two clinician-researchers from The University of Melbourne have led the way in finding a genetic basis for many epilepsies, building on their discovery of the first ever link between a specific gene and a form of epilepsy. Finding that answer has been of profound importance for families.
Along the way, Sam and Ingrid discovered that a particularly severe form of epilepsy, thought to result from vaccination, was actually caused by a gene mutation. This finding dispelled significant concerns about immunisation.