Student Projects

Cellular and Molecular Neurodegeneration Laboratory: Understanding the impact of bushfire smoke on brain health

Project Supervisor/s

Air pollution is a major global health issue contributing to over 7 million deaths worldwide each year. A growing body of research is demonstrating important impacts of air pollution on brain health, with increased incidence of a range of neurological disease from exposure to air pollutants. Bushfire smoke (also known as wildfire smoke internationally) is a major form of air pollution in Australia, and is a growing issue due to climate change to expansion of human populations at the urban-rural interface. Bushfire smoke contains many toxic chemicals including particulate matter that can enter the body via lungs or nasal cells. Animal studies have provided support to show that particles from smoke can reach the brain, where they may induce oxidative stress and inflammation leading to adverse outcomes on brain health. However, there is little understanding of how bushfire smoke affects the human brain, and whether this differs from animal exposure and other forms of air pollution. In this project we will expansion how bushfire smoke affects human olfactory (nasal) cells, and different cell-types derived from the human brain including cells of the blood-brain barrier, and microglia (brain immune cells). We will determine if bushfire smoke, or its derived components, induce inflammatory, or oxidative changes, and how the smoke affects brain cell gene expression. We will also examine whether there are disease-related differences in brain cell response to bushfire smoke, by examining cells derived from people with neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. The research will involve cell culture, molecular and protein studies, and microscopic-based approaches.

To apply for this project, please contact the project supervisor/s

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