AUSTEN MILNERWOOD

Dr. Milnerwood’s research centers on cell biological, electrophysiological and optical investigation of neural development, connectivity, transmission and plasticity. With a major focus on the early pathophysiology of adult-onset diseases such as movement disorders and dementia, his laboratory aims to develop neuroprotective treatments. Our projects include behavioural studies in rodents, electrophysiology and cell biology in acute brain slices, primary neuronal co-cultures and patient stem cell-derived neuron models.

A strong theme has emerged from studying several proteins harbouring mutations that are autosomal dominantly linked to Parkinson’s disease, in other words, genes transmitted down the family line that are highly predictive for developing PD. There are several proteins that cause “familial PD,” e.g. LRRK2, VPS35 and synuclein. We are finding that these proteins are involved in the same cellular functions. By learning more about what these proteins are supposed to do and what goes wrong with the mutations present, we hope to work out the common neuronal dysfunction of many forms of parkinsonism and then develop appropriate treatments.

Working out how neuronal function goes awry early in disease states can help us to intervene and possibly to prevent the onset or progression of degenerative processes. The world’s population is aging. By 2025, half of the population may be over 60 years old, and up to 2% might have Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. There is a pressing societal and financial need to learn more about, and to better treat, human neurodegenerative disease.