The Peter Duncan Neurosciences Institute, St Vincent's Centre for Applied Medical Research is located in the Lowy-Packer Building adjacent to the Garvan Institute in Darlinghurst and they’re currently looking for enthusiastic research students going into their ILP/Honours year in 2018. It’s a wonderful place to do your research year for several reasons:

  • Supervision from senior clinical neurologist Professor Bruce Brew
  • Supportive team of Co-supervisor, Post-doctoral fellows, research assistant providing day to day assistance with project
  • Clear projects with excellent publication output, many of the projects already have ethics approval reducing delay in starting of projects
  • Opportunity to present at conferences nationally and internationally
  • Opportunity to attend clinical activities during the year such as Neurology Grand Rounds and Hospital Grand Rounds
  • Prime location in the middle of Darlinghurst, next to St Vincents Hospital and across the roads from Messina and lots of restaurants

If you’re interested in neurology this placement is for you! For more information please send an email through to Professor Bruce Brew (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and Dr. Michael Lovelace (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).  

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Project #1: A new mouse model for motor neurone disease

Our research group has collaborative links with the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke who have created a transgenic mouse model that develops amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)-like syndromes. This mouse model expresses a gene of the human endogenous retrovirus-K virus; which has been found to be expressed in a subpopulation of patients with ALS.  The Neurosciences team are interested in importing this new mouse model for further research in Australia.

Project #2: Expression and function of BCL11b in multiple sclerosis and MND patients

The role of viral infection in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis (MS) has been strongly debated. BCL11b is a protein known to be a transcriptional modifier expressed in both the brain and immune system. BCL11b has been shown to inhibit human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) gene transcription. We hypothesize that BCL11b may also be a marker of latent retroviral infection in MS and could play a role in the pathogenesis of the disease.

Project #3: The Kynurenine Pathway Profile of Neural Stem Cells & Immune Cells in Neuroinflammatory conditions

Currently there is a lack of effective treatments for a broad spectrum of acute and chronic neurological diseases. In many neurological diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and Alzheimer’s disease, there is no cure and the majority of patients continue to deteriorate over time. There are some similarities between the diseases in that the overall symptoms are generally driven by the death of neurons or associated oligodendrocytes (cells which envelop adjacent neurons in layers of insulating myelin protein needed for the successful transmission of nerve impulses between neurons). We hypothesize that modulating an essential biochemical pathway known as the kynurenine pathway of metabolism of the amino acid tryptophan (Figure below) in the brain can promote the mobilization of adult brain stem cells for the repair and replacement of damaged brain cells (e.g. oligodendrocytes and neurons in MS and motor neurons in MND). The work described in this project will specifically identify and validate the targets of these stem cells so that disability can be reversed or ameliorated.

Project #4: Identification and quantification of HIV Latency biomarkers in the Central Nervous System

This proposal aims to investigate and profile the biomarkers of blood and cerebrospinal fluid samples of HIV patients with and without HIV-associated Neurocognitive Disoder (HAND). We hypothesize that HAND in the context of effective antiviral medication is primarily caused by continued restricted HIV replication. Currently none of the available antiviral medications work at this critical step in the HIV life cycle - post integration early transcription. At this step of the HIV lifecycle the production of neurotoxic/neuroinflammatory/vasotoxic proteins tat, nef and vpr may thereby explain HAND’s current relationship to inflammation, vascular disease and aspects of Alzheimer disease pathogenesis.

The results of this study may stimulate new drug development in the post integration and transcription step of the HIV life cycle and identify sensitive HAND biomarkers relevant in the HIV+ infected population.


Opportunities for Research Students