Gastroenterology, Immunology and Neuroscience
Gastroenterology, Immunology and Neuroscience (GIN) Discovery Program
The Gastroenterology, Immunology and Neuroscience Discovery Program is a transdisciplinary consortium working to improve our understanding of the gut-immune-brain axis and to create solutions to combat complex health conditions.
Historically medical research has focused on individual organs or systems; however, it is becoming clear that by taking this siloed approach we fail to see the bigger health picture. We now know that health conditions such as allergies, diabetes, epilepsy, and Crohn’s disease are not conditions of only one system but are due to a combination of factors affected by the “gut-immune-brain axis”. The gut-immune-brain axis refers to interactions between the gastrointestinal system, the immune system and the brain / central nervous system. With experts in Gastroenterology, Immunology and Neuroscience, we've positioned itself to tackle this new frontier in translational research.
Who we are
The program consists of over 80 world-class scientists and clinicians who are passionate about improving our understanding of conditions of the gut-immune-brain axis and finding better ways to manage and prevent these complex conditions.
The executive team
Special interest groups
Our special interest groups provide an opportunity for our members to identify and focus on specific areas of research.
Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD)
The DOHaD interest group strives to understand the complex relationships that exist between early life experiences and long-term health and disease. Bringing together interdisciplinary expertise, this interest group aims to investigate mechanisms that underlie risk or resiliency for a plethora of health conditions, including but not limited to, autoimmune disorders, mental health, and susceptibility to infection.
Scientists, clinicians, and dieticians strive to understand how diet can prevent and treat disease. We conduct preclinical, translation and clinical trials, all with a dietary component, utilising expertise and facilities such as Alfred Health patient clinics, faecal and mucosal samples collection, and microbiota and psychological markers interpretation. We consider relevance in real-world eating, the complexities of food matrices and the variability of human diets.
The bioinformatics group aims to build collaboration, sharing experiences with coding, using tools and data analyses. More exciting is the opportunity to brainstorm and pose questions such as: How can we use bioinformatics to model the complexity inherent in biological systems? How can we use existing/public data to generate testable hypotheses?
The microbiome influences nearly all aspects of health and disease, particularly those linked with mucosal barrier surfaces, immunology, and the nervous system. This interest group discusses all things microbes and metabolites including the latest developments in the field, study design and analysis approaches.
Microglia and macrophage (M2M)
The M2M (microglia-to-macrophage) group brings together experts and interested parties in microglia and macrophage biology. The goal of the group is to share insights into these related but distinctly different cells to create a knowledge base of the differences and similarities in signalling properties and biological functions that these cells possess.
The Pitch supports collaborative research between early and mid-career researchers that contributes to our understanding of the gut-immune-brain axis. Successful projects receive up to $25,000 to support novel research projects.
The Pitch funded projects for 2022
Can we treat concussion by restricted feeding? Exploring the gut-brain axis during brain injury
Concussion is a highly prevalent injury, particularly occurring in adolescence. These head injuries are known to cause inflammation in the brain. Given brain development is crucial during these formative years, the consequences of concussion may be serious and long-lasting. Although inflammation starts in the brain, the gut can also be impacted. The connection between the gut and the brain is referred to as the gut-brain axis. Due to an increasingly 24-hour society and widespread artificial lighting, productivity, or social activities can now occur at all times of the day or night. Similarly, in many modern societies, food is readily available around the clock. Unfortunately, these 24-hour societies are not compatible with the environments in which all living creatures evolved. The overarching goal of this study is to determine whether modifying the feeding regime can promote a healing response to reduce concussion-induced inflammation in both the brain and the gut. We hope to harness these dietary interventions as a potential treatment for brain injury.
Can we prevent severe epilepsy by limiting peripheral inflammation?
Multiple studies have shown that inflammation in the brain plays a critical role in the development of epilepsy. It has also been shown that inflammation elsewhere in the body can feed back into the brain via the bloodstream and worsen epilepsy outcomes. By applying this knowledge to the study of a known growth factor which is involved in the regulation of peripheral myeloid cells that can promote chronic inflammatory disease in other settings, we propose that the loss of this factor alters peripheral and brain immune responses and will evaluate its potential for therapeutic targeting in epilepsy.
Developing the first Australian mouse model of anti-NMDAR autoimmune encephalitis
Autoimmune encephalitis (AE) constitutes a group of inflammatory brain conditions, presenting with seizures, cognitive deficits, and mood/behavioural alterations. Up to 50% of the AE cases are associated with the presence of antibodies in the patient's cerebrospinal fluid which target neuronal proteins, with antibodies against the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor (NMDAR) being the most common. However, the pathogenic mechanism of those antibodies is not well-understood, largely due to the lack of valid animal models. In this proposal, we aim to establish a mouse model of AE by administering anti-NMDAR antibodies directly to the mouse brain and we will assess behavioural and immunological changes during the disease development. This project will form the basis for pursuing long-term goals in identification of the pathogenic NMDAR epitopes responsible for disease, exploring how systemic antibodies enter the brain to cause disease, and development and testing of novel, targeted therapeutics.