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Ajantha Abey

DPhil Student

Understanding Selective Neuronal Vulnerability in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease

Research Project

My research centres around understanding selective neuronal vulnerability in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease using patient derived induced pluripotent stem cell models. A notable phenomenon of many neurodegenerative disorders is that in each disease, typically a very select population of neurons in the brain become afflicted by that disease's pathology. For example, dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta are highly vulnerable to alpha synuclein aggregation in Parkinson's disease, whereas hippocampal and cortical neurons are highly vulnerable to tau aggregation in Alzheimer's disease.

It is not clear what makes particular cells more vulnerable or resistant to these toxic proteins in different diseases or cell types. While histological studies have uncovered many hypotheses around calcium buffering, protein homeostasis, and mitochontrial stress, these have not been examined in live cells before, so I hope to uncover some answers to explain this phenomenon as part of my project,


I am from Sydney, Australia, and did my undergraduate degree at the University of Sydney, completing a Bachelor of Science (Advanced) and Bachelor of Arts majoring in Neuroscience, Latin, and Ancient History. I also completed my Honours in Anatomy and Histology with the Regenerative Neuroscience Group at the Brain and Mind Centre in 2018, and continued working with the group as a Research Assistant for the subsequent 2 years, before joining the Wade-Martins group. In Sydney, my projects were examining tauopathy and synaptic loss in canine dementia as a model of human Alzheimer's diesease, as well as working on developing functional neuronal differentiation protocols for a novel stem cell.

Through this, I have developed a broad interest in ageing research, neuroscience, neurodegeneration, and regenerative/stem cell technologies. I am now funded by the Department of Physiology, Anatomy, and Genetics Studentship and Clarendon Scholarship program.

iPSC derived cortical neurons stained for MAP2 (red) and phosphorylated LRRK2 (orange)