Thursday 22 August 2019 11:50am
Dr Leon Smyth joined the Centre for Free Radical Research back in February through the support of a Philip Wrightson Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand.
Dr Smyth completed his PhD in Professor Mike Dragunow’s lab at the Centre for Brain Research in Auckland, working on the role of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) in Alzheimer’s disease.
The BBB protects the brain from blood-borne molecules that can damage nerve cells, but becomes leaky in people with Alzheimer’s. During that time he worked extensively with cells grown from human brain tissue. They identified a pathway that is disrupted in people with Alzheimer’s disease, causing vessels to spill damaging molecules into the brain. They also described how blood vessels contribute to brain clearance of protein clumps called amyloids that accumulate in Alzheimer’s.
The project Dr Smyth is currently working on in the Centre for Free Radical Research is to determine how the oxidative stress associated with Alzheimer’s disease causes brain blood vessels to leak, and if neutrophils contribute to this stress. Understanding how these processes work could help in the design of new therapies to slow the progression of this crippling disease.