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Investigating how activated monocytes/macrophages infiltrate into the brain to stimulate neuroimmune responses

School of Biomedical Sciences

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Dr R Chang Applications accepted all year round Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The Laboratory of Neurodegenerative Disease (Dr. Raymond CC Chang’s Lab: Facebook: is looking for a pro-active PhD student with first class honor or equivalent. The student will work on a research project for investigating how activated monocytes/macrophages infiltrate into the brain to stimulate neuroimmune responses. We will study nicotinic acetylcholine receptor on macrophages and microglia. Candidate with experience in single cell RNAseq is most welcome. The laboratory is highly internationalized in which members are from UK, Denmark, USA, Canada, Australia, Thailand, and Malaysia; with over 50% of members are from non-local students. Candidate with interest is strongly advised to contact Dr. Raymond Chuen-Chung CHANG ([Email Address Removed]).
Increasing lines of study show the impact of systemic inflammation on neuroinflammation, resulting in accumulation of pathological factors and cognitive dysfunctions. However, its underlying mechanisms of how systemic inflammation is transmitted to neuroinflammation or how brain knows the systemic inflammation is still unclear. This is the holy grail question in neuroimmunology and neurodegeneration. We have adopted experimental model of laparotomy for post-operative cognitive dysfunction (POCD). We take intestine out from mice for massage and put back to abdomen without any surgical dissection. We have proved that effects of anesthetics are rather transient. Instead of anesthetics, our study showed that systemic inflammation elicits long-term effects to sustain activation of microglia/astrocytes, long-term tau phosphorylation and cognitive dysfunctions. Application of anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen can revert all these effects. Therefore, this experimental model is ideal for us to investigate our key question in neuroimmunology.

Among different factors, we have recently obtained results showing that partial agonist of 42 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) can attenuate inflammatory responses, tau phosphorylation and cognitive dysfunctions. The current concept of “cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway” often heavily focuses on 7nAChR. Less is known about 42 isoform. The objective of this proposed study is to elucidate the functions of 42nAChR on systemic inflammation and neuroinflammation. Our working hypothesis is that 42nAChR can be functioned as therapeutic target to attenuate systemic inflammation, neuroinflammation, tau pathology and cognitive dysfunctions. We will use molecular approach (cre-lox method) to specifically knockout 4 subunit so that no functional 42nAChR can be formed on macrophages, and then perform laparotomy. Some groups will have rescue experiments by in utero electroporation to give back 4 subunit. Next, we will use 42 agonists varenicline and TC2599 to investigate if agonists attenuate systemic inflammation, infiltration of macrophages (bearing green fluorescent protein), tau pathology and cognitive dysfunctions after laparotomy with or without varenicline/TC2599.

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