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Roger Chung

Professor of Neuroscience & Associate Dean (Research & Higher Degrees Research), Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences

Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences

Contact Details

Tel: (02) 9850 2724

Email: roger.chung@mq.edu.au

In 2014, I moved to Macquarie University, and together with my colleagues A/Prof Julie Atkin, A/Prof Ian Blair, Dr Nick Cole, Prof Gilles Guillemin and Prof Dominic Rowe, we established a new multi-disciplinary, collaborative research program exploring the molecular origins of motor neurone disease (MND) and related neurodegenerative disorders.

From 2004‐2014, my research program based at the University of Tasmania was focused upon a multi‐disciplinary approach to understanding the basic biochemical, molecular and cellular mechanisms that underpin how neurons respond to injury or disease, and how non‐ neuronal cells (glia) are involved in modulating this process. This research has focused upon metallothioneins (MTs), a highly unusual family of metal‐binding proteins whose precise physiological functions remain unclear. My research team has been at the international forefront in identifying precise links between protein structure, the unique biochemical properties that this structure confers, and the biological functions of MTs. Two of the major achievements of this research program have been:

  • ­Revealing that extracellular MTs have neurotrophic activities, and play an important role in astrocyte‐neuron responses to injury
  • Exploring the ability of MT to de‐toxify neurotoxic, metal‐bound forms of beta‐amyloid In 2014, I moved to Macquarie University, and together with my colleagues A/Prof Julie Atkin, A/Prof Ian Blair, Dr Nick Cole, Prof Gilles Guillemin and Prof Dominic Rowe, we established a new multi‐ disciplinary, collaborative research program exploring the molecular origins of motor neurone disease (MND) and related neurodegenerative disorders.

Qualifications:

PhD (University of Tasmania), 2003

Research Interest

I have established three new research programs at Macquarie, with particular interest in understanding the molecular origins of motor neurone disease (also known as ALS) and related neurodegenerative diseases.

1. Understanding the role of abnormal protein aggregates in the pathogenesis of MND.

This project aims to understand how mutations in MND proteins cause them to inappropriately aggregate and accumulate inside motor neurons, and how this leads to degeneration. We use a range of proteomic approaches to address this problem, with particular focus upon the impact of abnormal protein aggregation upon the ubiquitin‐ proteasome system. This research is primarily undertaken by Dr Albert Lee, and Stephanie Rayner (PhD student).

2. Using zebrafish to visualise neuron‐glia interactions underlying MND disease mechanisms.

We use zebrafish to observe MND disease processes within the nervous system of a living animal, overcoming the technical constraints that prevent us from visualising these processes in patients. We use sophisticated microscopy approaches to visualise how glia (such as microglia and astrocytes) respond to the death of spinal motor neurons, and how this process is altered in MND fish. This research is primarily undertaken by Dr Marco Morsch, Dr Isabel Formella, Serene Gwee (PhD student) and Rowan Radford (PhD student).

3. Nanoparticle‐based theranostics for MND and other neurodegenerative diseases.

One of the key roadblocks in this field is the ability to specifically detect and visualize dysfunctional/diseased neurons in the spinal cord and brain of MND patients (and in fact all other neurodegenerative diseases). This is key to not only developing predictive/diagnostic tools, but also ultimately for targeted molecular therapies. The blood‐brain barrier represents the major hurdle, and subsequently we are testing various nanoparticles for their ability to cross the blood‐brain barrier. Concurrently, we are modifying these nanoparticles to develop drug‐ delivery vehicles that can be used to deliver therapeutic payloads to diseased neurons. This research is being undertaken by Dr Bingyang Shi (NHMRC/ARC Dementia Fellowship) and Libing Fu (PhD student).

Select Publications

  1. Morsch M, Radford R, Lee A, Don EK, Badrock AP, Hall TE, Cole NJ, Chung RS (2015) In vivo characterization of microglial engulfment of dying neurons in the zebrafish spinal cord. Front Cell Neurosci. 9:321.
  2. Adlard PA, Chung RS (2015). Editorial: The molecular pathology of cognitive decline: focus on metals. Front Aging Neurosci. 7:116.
  3. Radford R, Morsch M, Rayner S, Cole NJ, Pountney DL, Chung RS (2015) The established and emerging roles of astrocytes and microglia in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Frontotemporal Dementia. Front Cell Neurosci. (invited review; accepted for publication, 16/9/15)
  4. Lewis KE, Rasmussen AL, Bennett W, King AE, West AK, Chung RS and Chuah MI. Microglia and motor neurons during disease progression in the SOD1G93A mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: Changes in arginase1 and inducible nitric oxide synthase (2014). Journal of Neuroinflammation Mar 23;11:55

Grant Success

Australian Research Council

  • ­ 2015 Linkage Infrastructure Equipment Fund (LE150100177) A/Prof D Jin ; Prof T Monro ; A/Prof F Braet ; A/Prof B Gibson ; Prof I Paulsen ; A/Prof D Traini ; Prof M Hutchinson ; A/Prof A Greentree ; Prof RS Chung ; et al. National Live Cell Scanning Platform for Nanoparticle Tracking. $440,000
  • ­  2014‐2016 Discovery Project (DP140103233) Prof RS Chung, Dr NA Cole, Prof AK West. Visualising neuron‐glia interactions in the living central nervous system. $383,000.
  • ­  2012‐2014 Discovery Project (DP120100180) Prof RS Chung; Professor AK West; Dr PA Adlard. Cellular mechanisms that protect against copper‐bound beta‐amyloid. $270,000
  • ­  2009‐2013 Discovery Project (DP0984673) Prof RS Chung; AssocProf MI Chuah; Professor JC Vickers; Professor AK West. Redefining the Metallothionein's role in the Injured Brain: Extracellular Metallothioneins Play an Important Role in Astrocyte‐neuron Responses to Injury. $561,140 

 National Health & Medical Research Council

  • ­  2016‐2020 NHMRC Dementia Teams Grant (APP1095215) A/Prof IP Blair, A/P JD Atkin, Prof RS Chung, Prof GJ Guillemin, Dr L Oii, Dr W Wilson, A/Prof M Molloy, Dr JJ Yerbury, Dr NA Cole, A/Prof T Karl. Developing insight into the molecular origins of familial and sporadic frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. $6,377,279
  • ­  2016‐2018 Project Grant (1107644) A/Prof IP Blair, A/Prof JD Atkin, Prof RS Chung, Dr JJ Yerbury, Dr L Ooi. The role of mutant cyclin F in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. $1,012, 933
  • ­  2015‐2017 Project Grant (APP1084767) Prof S Graham, Dr V Gupta, Prof RS Chung. Saving the optic nerve : manipulating the Shp2‐ Caveolin axis. $529,499
  • ­  2015‐2018 Project Grant (APP1086887) A/Prof JD Atkin, Dr NJ Cole, Prof RS Chung. Disruption to intracellular trafficking as a central pathogenic mechanism in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). $664,154
  • ­  2015‐2019 Project Grant (APP1082271) A/Prof T Woodruff, Prof P McCombe, A/Prof M Ruitenburg, Prof RS Chung. Determining the contribution of peripheral immune complement signalling in the progression of motor neuron disease. $958,723
  • ­  2011‐2013 Project Grant (1003931) Dr TC Dickson; Professor JC Vickers; Prof RS Chung; Dr AE King. The role of excitotoxicity in mediating distal axonal degeneration in ALS. $379,034
  • 2010‐2012 Project Grant (605528) Prof RS Chung; Professor AK West; Dr PA Adlard; Professor P Palumaa. Modulating beta‐amyloid aggregation and toxicity with natural metal‐ binding proteins. $384,750
  • 2009‐2011 Project Grant (544913) Prof RS Chung; Professor AK West; Dr DA Gell; Dr NS Cheung. How does the LRP receptor megalin promote regenerative neuronal growth? $392,750
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