Grants enable neurological research at Victoria

Three researchers from the Faculty of Science have received funding in the Neurological Foundation’s 2014 grant round.

Three researchers from Victoria University of Wellington’s Faculty of Science have received funding in the Neurological Foundation’s 2014 grant round.

Dr Anne La Flamme, from the School of Biological Sciences, has received $81,209 to continue her research into how a commonly used anti-psychotic agent, clozapine, can modify Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

This research will contribute to the understanding of the cause of MS, which remains unknown. By determining how clozapine can reduce central nervous system inflammation, new insights into immune dysfunction and its contribution to disease progression may emerge.

Professor Bart Ellenbroek, from the School of Psychology, has received $79,500 for his project focused on understanding why some people are more at risk of developing hazardous drinking patterns.

His study will look at the underlying genetic factors that contribute to the development of compulsive drinking and may help to identify new treatments.

Dr Melanie McConnell, from the School of Biological Sciences, in collaboration with the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, has been awarded a small project grant of $11,800. This will enable her to examine mitochondrial transfer in response to injury. Mitochondria are the ‘batteries’ of the cell, and neurons are particularly susceptible to loss of these batteries.

While this is a very new research field, Dr McConnell says the transfer of mitochondria from one cell to another is probably a fundamental biological process. It has implications for how brain cells survive injury, and could provide a new target for treating neurodegeneration in the future.

Dr Bronwyn Kivell, from the School of Biological Sciences, received a $4,200 educational travel grant that allowing her to attend, and present her research findings at, the College on Problems of Drug Dependence and International Narcotics Research Conferences in Phoenix Arizona in June 2015.

Her research project, funded by the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand, has identified several new compounds with anti-addiction potential and fewer side effects. During her visit to the United States, Dr Kivell will also present her work at the University of Kansas and meet with a collaborator on her research project, Professor Prisinzano.

The Dean of Science, Professor David Harper, congratulates the scientists on their funding success.

“These grants illustrate the capability and leading expertise we have at Victoria in this field of science.”