My laboratory is interested in understanding the critical roles played by zinc (and other metals such as iron) at the synapse, with a view to how its regulation is critical to normal learning/memory and neuronal plasticity. This zinc-mediated modulation of synaptic plasticity (via effects on glutamate, glutamatergic signaling cascades, neurogenesis, neurotrophin expression etc) has downstream relevance to a number of different research foci within my lab, including both normal and pathological ageing (eg. age-related cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease and Frontotemporal dementia), as well as to other conditions (such as head trauma) that are characterized by a failure in normal zinc ion homeostasis (and parallel deficits in neuronal plasticity).
Through close collaboration with Prana Biotechnology, as well as through other local and international collaborations, we are exploring not only how zinc is involved in the initiation and propagation of disease, but how it may itself be a therapeutic target (and also potentially an imaging agent). Thus, we hope to translate our basic science into effective therapeutics for many of these devastating conditions.
My lab has also started to explore other therapeutic avenues, using approaches/ compounds that are not directly related to metal metabolism, but which may affect metal-sensitive pathways involved in neuronal plasticity and a variety of age-dependent neurodegenerative diseases.
We utilize a number of techniques within the lab, such as in vivo mouse models (animal behavior, surgery, in vivo microdialysis, controlled cortical impact TBI models etc), multielectrode arrays (for high throughput electrophysiology), cell culture (primary cultures, cell lines, microfluidic cultures), synaptic RNA profiling using next generation sequencing and other more standard methodologies such as western blot and histological work (stereological analysis using both animal and human tissues).
Awards and achievements
1998- Gerontology Association Best Poster prize, Australian Society for Medical Research
2002- Royal Society of Tasmania Doctoral Award for making significant advances in my field at an early career stage
2006- NHMRC Howard Florey Centenary Research Fellowship
2010- Fujihara Foundation Travel Award
2011- AAICAD Travel Fellowship
2012- ARC Future Fellowship (Level 2)
2016- Editors choice article in Metallomics
2016- Top 20 most accessed article in Metallomics
2017- NHMRC Ten of the Best Research Projects
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