University Announces Neuroscience Fellows

January 14 / 127

The Melbourne Neuroscience Institute (MNI) has awarded Fellowships to Dr Michael Hildebrand, a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Medicine, Austin Health and Dr Christine Nguyen, a Research Fellow in the Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences.

The researchers will use the Fellowships to help academic staff from different disciplines to collaborate on research projects for the MNI, to promote the University’s interdisciplinary research projects in the neurosciences.

Dr Hildebrand is a molecular geneticist with expertise in next-generation genetic sequencing and bioinformatics.

His project will investigate the relationship between epilepsy and speech disorders in twins.

"The Fellowship will help to establish a sizable cohort of twins to improve our understanding of the genetic basis of epilepsies and speech disorders,” Dr Hildebrand said.

Dr Nguyen is a Research Fellow in the Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences and will use the Fellowship to investigate project a biomarker in the eye for Alzheimer’s disease.

“The eye is the only place in the body where the clear optics allow visualisation of neurons and blood vessels non-invasively. If brain changes are shown to be mirrored in the eye then visualisation of the retina can be used as a surrogate biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease, “she said.

“Alzheimer’s disease is in desperate need of a viable biomarker, as its annual economic cost is US$600 billion and at present, the only definitive diagnosis is post-mortem confirmation of plaques in the brain.”

Development of an ocular biomarker, simple and inexpensive to conduct for a clinician while remaining rapid and comfortable for patients could improve diagnosis and treatment development for Alzheimer’s disease.

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