NHMRC reveals latest neurology research projects to be funded


By Michael Woodhead

4 Nov 2021

The NHMRC has announced new funding for several neurology research projects including studies into the SARS-Cov-2-19 virus and the brain,  intraneuronal immunotherapy to treat dementia, and a project to investigate the role of myelin in neural circuit function and behaviour.

Neurology and neuroscience studies were among 248 innovative research projects to receive a share of $239 million from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Ideas Grant scheme.

Professor Frederic Meunier at the University of Queensland receives $904,308 for a project entitled “Targeting neuropilin in SARS-Cov-2 neuronal uptake and transport” to try to understand the long-term consequences of potential virus interactions with brain cells and find ways to block infection.

A team led by Dr Ole Tietz at Macquarie University receives more than $972,000 for a study into how intraneuronal immunotherapy may help halt and reverse the course of dementia.

“Current immunotherapies for dementia are limited to the small amount of toxic protein accessible outside neurons. This project will develop new immunotherapeutics that clear problematic proteins inside neurons in order to halt and reverse the course of dementia,” his proposal noted..

A project at the University of Tasmania led by Dr Carlie Cullen will receive $794,000 for a project to investigate the role of myelin in neural circuit function and behaviour. According to Dr Cullen, the project “aims to show how brain insulation adapts to and regulates brain function and learn how inappropriate insulation could underpin symptoms of mental health disorders.”

Professor Patrick Kwan at Monash University receives $781,000 for a project to study machine learning models for personalised epilepsy management.

“We will use clinical and genetic information to develop machine learning models to help clinician to select the most effective drug for individual epilepsy patients, and to identify patients likely has drug-resistant epilepsy at the time of diagnosis,” his proposal states.

“These models will be validated in a new multicentre cohort of patients with newly diagnosed epilepsy in Australia.”

Meanwhile a team led by Professor Ostoja Vucic at Sydney University receive $1,009,000 for a project that will use novel neurophysiological tools to study brain activity in patients with motor neuron disease/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

“We anticipate that excessive brain activity, called cortical hyperexcitability, will be caused by reduction in activity of cortical inhibitory nerves, increase in activity of cortical excitatory nerves and increase in persistent sodium currents. Treatments, targeting the abnormal brain processes, are likely to be developed,” they said.

Other neuroscience research projects to receive NHMRC funding in this round include:

Dr Simranpreet Kaur,  Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Melbourne,  $776,000: Accelerating treatment for epilepsy in children with KIF1A-associated neurological disorders.

Associate Prof Simon Murray, University of Melbourne, $1001,000: Promoting myelin repair in a refractory environment in vivo.

Associate Professor Sandy Shultz,  Monash University, $1,924,000: Brain injury in intimate partner violence: Insight into a silent pandemic

Professor Julie Atkin, Macquarie University, NSW, $810,000: Characterising the unique functional and pathological properties of a novel extracellular RNA binding protein in ALS

Full details of all grant results are available at the NHMRC website

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