Professor Carolyn Sue AM
Kinghorn Chair, Neurodegeneration
Our group aims to translate research discoveries into clinical practice. Our primary focus is to understand how mitochondrial function, necessary for neuronal survival, becomes impaired in patients with Parkinson’s. This allows us to develop strategies to restore mitochondrial function and prevent neuronal degeneration and cell death thus slowing or stopping disease progression.
Our Parkinson’s Disease Centre actively recruits to clinical trials and offers our patients the latest opportunities to participate in research to improve the health outcomes.
By studying the genetic basis of disease in Parkinson’s patients we have identified the Nix protein, a protein that sits on the outer membrane of mitochondria, as a crucial component of mitochondrial clearance (mitophagy). When Nix expression is too low cells the cell cannot sufficiently clean out damaged or senescent mitochondria leading to cell degeneration. When Nix expression is experimentally enhanced in cultured patient-derived cells mitochondria recycling and function is restored.
Our research is now focussed on developing ways to enhance Nix expression, including gene therapy approaches, in preclinical studies with patient-derived neuronal cells and animal models, that can be translated to the treatment of patients.
Our preclinical studies will demonstrate the most effective gene therapy vectors in enhancing Nix expression in dopamine-producing cells for testing in a clinical trial. When Nix over-expression is developed into a robust in-human treatment, it has the potential to revolutionize the field by providing the first treatment to stop the progression of Parkinson’s.
There is emerging evidence that visuo-spatial processing is involved in balance control during gait. Importantly, visuo-spatial processing may be key for fall avoidance as it enables one to precisely remember the position and physical characteristics of upcoming…
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