The following grants were approved prior to December 2012.
$136,862Associate Professor Bronwen Connor Department of Pharmacology and Clinical Pharmacology, Centre for Brain Research - University of Auckland 2011 - December
The generation of ‘embryonic-like’ stem cells from adult human skin was first demonstrated in 2007. This project will advance this capability by directly generating immature brain cells (neural precursor cells) from adult human skin. Of major significance is that this will avoid the need to generate an intermediate embryonic-like stem cell phase, providing neural precursor cells for therapeutic applications without risk of tumour formation from stem cells. This project provides a unique opportunity to establish a novel technology which is likely to have wide-reaching applications for future research in the areas of neurological disease modeling, drug development, and potentially cell replacement therapy.
Endocytosis of Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs) by neurons: new insights into neurodegeneration
$95,714Dr Shamim Shaikh Department of Anatomy and the Centre for Brain Research - University of Auckland 2010 - June
Most neurodegenerative diseases are characterised by the loss of specific neurons in the disease-specific brain regions and the accumulation of protein aggregates within neurons known as inclusion bodies. Studies suggest that accumulation of the pathogenic compounds Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs) is an important contributor to the neuronal cell death. The study aims to investigate how AGEs contribute to these inclusions. An in-vitro cell-culture model will be used in conjunction with AGEs prepared in the laboratory and well-established cellular and molecular techniques to study whether neurons can internalise AGEs, and if these internalised AGEs can become part of the inclusions seen within neurons. The results of the proposed study may provide a major step forward in understanding the pathways implicated in neurodegeneration.
$35,000Jessie Jacobsen Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School 2010 - December
Extension of one year to existing Philip Wrightson Fellowship awarded in December 2008.
Huntington's disease (HD) is a fatal, inherited neurodegenerative disorder caused by an expanded CAG repeat in the huntingtin (HTT) gene. The ultimate goal of this research is to develop a treatment for Huntington’s disease (HD). The generation of transgenic sheep expressing the mutant HD gene has provided a unique tool through which researchers can help understand the underlying disease processes before cell death has occurred. Six sheep lines expressing the human HTT gene have been generated by the University of Auckland and initial molecular and neurochemical analysis demonstrate early disease changes that mimic HD. The animal husbandry is carried out at The South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), however, the project is led by Professors Richard Faull and Russell Snell at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.
In collaboration with The University of Auckland, Dr Jacobsen has been undertaking her Philip Wrightson Fellowship at the Center for Human Genetic Research (CHGR) at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), working in a team that has been generating a well-characterised panel of cell lines from the HD transgenic (and normal) sheep that will serve as a permanent resource for the HD research community. This cell lines will also provide valuable insights into disease processes and will be used as a platform for cell-based assays to search for cures for HD. This postdoctoral fellowship extension will allow Dr Jacobsen to continue to advance this work, using state of the art technology in the MacDonald laboratory at MGH.
Influence of Chemoattractant Cytokines on the Differentiation of Adult and Aged Neural Progenitor Cells
$10,000Dr Renee Gordon, Dr Christof Maucksch Department of Pharmacology and Clinical Pharmacology, and the Centre for Brain Research - University of Auckland 2010 - June
Neural progenitor cells found in the adult brain may provide an exciting therapeutic strategy for replacing cells lost through brain injury and disease. In order to achieve this clinically, methods need to be developed to direct progenitor cells to migrate to specific areas of cell loss. One signalling system that may be of importance in this regard is the chemokines and their receptors. This project aims to advance knowledge regarding the function of chemokines in the adult brain by investigating the role chemokines play in directing the migration and fate of adult neural progenitor cells.
$136,854Phoebe Macrae Department of Communication Disorders - University of Canterbury 2010 - December
Many patients who survive a stroke or other neurological damage are unable to eat or drink independently due to difficulty swallowing: instead they are reliant on a tube through the nose or stomach for nutrition. There are treatments for disordered swallowing, but clinicians cannot be confident in the outcomes that will be achieved, due to the lack of evidence in swallowing rehabilitation research. This study will investigate the effects of a novel treatment on swallowing recovery. The treatment alters the communication from the damaged parts of the brain during swallowing, therefore facilitating communication from the intact brain regions with the swallowing muscles.