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Mater Research’s ethos of translation was one of the main drawcards for Dr Carlie Cullen when deciding to take on a new challenge as a Group Leader with the Institute’s Neuroscience Program.
“I’m looking forward to drawing on the great collaborative network that Mater Health and Research provides and exploring how my discovery research expertise might compliment that of clinicians working within the Mater Neurosciences Centre,” Carlie said.
“It is my hope that together we can approach new ideas from all aspects of the translational research continuum and conduct high quality research that will one day improve the lives of people living with a neurological condition.”
Carlie will lead the Glial Neurobiology, Cognition & Behaviour Research Group that will investigate how specialised brain cells called oligodendrocytes influence how we think, feel, and behave.
The Group also aims to learn how these cells might be targeted to help maintain, restore, or improve brain function.
Oligodendrocytes are responsible for creating a fatty insulating substance called myelin, that wraps around electrically active neurons and helps ensure electrical signals, or ‘information’ travels between different parts of the central nervous system
“Myelin seems to be involved in a range of neurological conditions ranging from multiple sclerosis (MS) to Autism Spectrum Disorder and depression and anxiety. Looking more closely at myelin to help identify the biological causes of mental health disorders is critical for the development of effective treatments or prevention strategies,” Carlie said.
“Myelin has been largely overlooked for such a long time because it was thought to be static, but emerging research shows that it is quite adaptive. When we learn or experience new things our myelin will change – indicating it is involved in memory, learning and our perception of our environment.
“I want to understand how important myelin formation during brain development and ongoing adaptability of myelin content is for shaping the way information is processed in the brain, and subsequently how this impacts behavioural actions throughout life.”
Carlie, who completed her PhD at The University of Queensland in 2014, has already made big strides in the myelin research field.
“I had the privilege of working within the Multiple Sclerosis Research Flagship at the University of Tasmania, where I helped lead the discovery of how applying magnetic stimulation to the brain could promote the growth of new myelin. We then progressed and translated it to a Phase I clinical trial,” she said.
“I’m excited that Mater Hospital Brisbane is now part of the Phase II multi-site national trial which will hopefully lead to a new, effective treatment to improve the quality of life of people with MS.”
Carlie said her group would use innovative transgenic mouse and zebrafish models to modulate myelin content in the developing and adult brain to determine whether disrupted myelination, or impaired myelin plasticity, contributes to pathological and behavioural symptoms of neurological conditions including mental health disorders.
Find out more about Carlie’s research here: Dr Carlie Cullen - Researcher - Mater Research
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