The Univeristy of Melbourne The Royal Melbourne Hopspital

A joint venture between The University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital


Research Projects

Project: Neurodegeneration in the enteric nervous system

Lawson group

The enteric nervous system controls the function of the gastrointestinal tract and depends on extrinsic innervation arising from the brain and spinal cord, and intrinsic innervation derived from neurons within the neuronal plexus of the gastrointestinal tract. Recent studies suggest that neurons and glial cells of the enteric nervous system are vulnerable to the degeneration that is observed in the neurons and glial cells of the central nervous system (Albanese et al 2008, Lawson et al 2010, Ellet et al 2016). We are interested in parallels in disease (pathology and pathogenesis) observed in the enteric and central nervous systems in neurodegeneration, and the potential for neurodegeneration to originate in the enteric nervous system. This project investigates the consequences of the loss of neuronal populations and neuroinflammation in the enteric nervous system from mouse models of neurodegeneration (prion disease, Parkinson’s disease, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and exploring diagnostic pa​radigms utilising tissues from the gastrointestinal tract.

Image: Neuronal populations in the enteric nervous system. Chemical markers of enteric glial cells (GFAP, a) neurons (Hu, b) and inhibitory motor neurons (nNOS, c) can be used to identify cell populations affected by protein misfolding and neurodegeneration in the enteric nervous system (from Lawson et al 2010)​.

Contact project supervisor for further
information and application enquiries

Project Supervisor

Associate Professor Vicki Lawson

Project availability
Master of Biomedical Science

Lawson group

3 vacancies

Host Pathogens Interactions
Cross Cutting Disciplines
Discovery Research
Public Health
Translational and Clinical Research

The Lawson group is focused on understanding how protein misfolding in the central and enteric nervous system gives rise to diseases such as prion and Parkinson’s diseases, with a focus on diagnosis, treatment and prevention, as well as understanding how the normal function of these proteins may contribute to diseases such as cancer. 

Lawson group Current Projects