Prof Ben Hogan and Dr Andrew Cox have been awarded prestigious Discovery Project grants from the Australian Research Council

The ARC Discovery Projects will initiate in 2020, in collaboration with the University of Melbourne.

Prof Hogan’s project will centre on understanding the embryonic development of specialised cells responsible for clearing of wastes from the brain, potentially unlocking knowledge to help us maintain better brain function as we get older.

“The brain is responsible for up to a quarter of the body’s metabolism. This huge amount of activity produces large amounts of tissue waste that requires clearing out,” explains Prof Hogan.

In previous work, Prof Hogan uncovered a specialised type of cell surrounding the brain that scavenges and clears tissue waste away from the brain but that derives from vasculature. 

“Without efficient cleaning, cellular and metabolic wastes can accumulate in the brain and negatively influence brain function. Our hope is that by understanding how these cells form and how they can be manipulated, we may uncover new ways to harness their scavenging abilities and remove waste from the brain in future applications.”

Using zebrafish and mice as models, Prof Hogan will study the origins and characteristics of this cell type, shedding new light on how these cells develop and function, and the fundamental processes that keep our brains working effectively. 

Dr Cox’s research aims to better characterise the processes involved in organ regeneration, in particular how the liver senses and responds to damage.

“Unlike most human organs, the liver shows a remarkable capacity to regenerate. Despite decades of research, we still don’t have a clear understanding of what goes on within the liver that allows it to recover to even quite significant injuries,” says Dr Cox.

Dr Cox’s project will study the process of liver regeneration in zebrafish models, aiming to better define the pathways involved in the sensing and response of liver tissue to injuries, that leads to organ regeneration.

“We know that the liver adapts to injury by activating a range of transcriptional and metabolic responses to orchestrate regeneration, but we don’t yet understand the precise nature of these changes.”

This work will reveal important principles involved in organ regeneration that could lead to important applications in the context of overcoming organ damage, in both fish as well as potentially humans in the future.