I began my PhD in March with Associate Professor Tracey Dickson’s research group at Menzies, after obtaining First Class Honours with Tracey in 2016 investigating the mechanisms underlying Parkinson’s disease. It is thought that a protein in the brain called Alpha-synuclein becomes abnormal within specific brain cells in Parkinson’s, causing them to degenerate and leading to the characteristic symptoms of Parkinson’s.
My research continues on from my Honours project, looking at this process in order to understand what causes these initial changes in the brain. I have learnt a new laboratory technique which involves isolating and growing dopaminergic cells of the brain. These cells produce a chemical called dopamine which is important for movement. Their degeneration is the characteristic pathology of Parkinson’s and is believed to be the main cause of movement problems, so this is a really promising method for further investigations. My next experiments aim to understand what makes specific brain cells vulnerable to alpha-synuclein changes, which I hope will shed light on the mechanisms leading to Parkinson’s disease and guide us towards potential therapeutic measures.