Professor Michael Dragunow is a molecular pharmacologist, neuroscientist, and researcher for BRNZ. Mike’s lab is looking into neurodegeneration, specifically how the blood supply system in the brain and inflammatory immune responses could be part of the problem in neurodegeneration. This research direction has landed him, and his team, with five million dollars of research funding over the next five years.
Neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease affect millions of people world-wide, but despite decades of research we still have no effective treatments to alter their progression. Mike’s programme of research is studying the underlying causes of neurodegeneration. They’re focusing on brain inflammation, and changes in the blood vessels of the brain. Those changes, Mike believes, allow for blood cells and proteins to seep into the diseased brain and cause damage.
He and his team are focusing on cells involved in brain inflammation, as well as the cells that are responsible for keeping the blood system intact. By looking at these cells, in healthy brain and in diseased brains, Mike and his team hope to identify exactly what the differences are between the immune and blood systems of a healthy brain vs those of a neurodegenerative brain.
The next step is to try to find treatment. They’ll be testing compounds directly on patient-derived adult human brain cells to try to find a treatment to reverse the effects of disease. It’s not a quick fix, but the better we understand neurodegeneration the better equipped we will be to fight it.