NHMRC grant to fund research in neurological disorders

NHMRC grant to fund research in neurological disorders

10 September 2015

MIPS researchers secure one of 11 NHMRC grants to fund research into neurological disorders

Monash University has received a grant of around A$900,000 from National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). The grant is one of 11 awarded to fund international collaborative research to solve global health problems such as heart attacks, dementia, stroke and leukaemia.

Professor Colin Pouton and Dr John Haynes of Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences have been awarded the grant for research into neurological disorders. Californian collaborators Dr Matt Blurton-Jones from UC Irvine and Professor Monica Carson UC Riverside received US$1.2-million to complement the NHMRC funding.

“We are pleased to receive this grant in support of our collaborative research into microglia. The opportunity to collaborate with international peers is extremely valuable in furthering our research efforts and the ultimate outcomes,” Professor Colin Pouton said.

Microglia is an immune cell within the brain that profoundly influences the development and progression of many neurological disorders. Microglia inherently migrate toward areas of brain injury, making them excellent candidates for use in cell transplantation therapies. Despite the widely accepted importance of microglia in neurological disease, methods to produce microglia from stem cells have yet to be reported. The team has recently developed one of the first protocols to generate microglia from human pluripotent stem cells.  

The Monash team has been working on differentiation of brain cells for 10 years, and is particularly interested in producing mature neurons, astrocytes and microglia for use in disease modelling and drug discovery.

Work will continue to improve the control over differentiation and to monitor and quantify the generation of microglia, streamlining the differentiation process and developing improved protocols that could be translated toward eventual clinical use. As a proof-of-principle experiment, researchers will then use the resulting human microglia to study some important questions about the genetic causes and potential treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

To date, the 2015 NHMRC Grant Application Round has resulted in the commitment of more than $46 million to fund health and medical research including 20 new grants to universities, medical research institutions and hospitals across Australia.