Ben Summers

Protecting axon-glial interactions to guard against dementia

Award: 
Dementia Australia Research Foundation PhD Scholarship
Project Snapshot: 

Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia can be associated with vascular related brain damage, often caused by brain cells being deprived of oxygen. White matter regions of the brain are particularly susceptible to this type of injury. They contain the long, thin nerve cell processes that act like the electrical wires of the brain, and the specialist insulating cells called oligodendrocytes, that wrap and insulate the nerves, and provide them with energy and nutrients. This project will study the interactions between nerve cells and oligodendrocytes under normal and low oxygen conditions. It will determine how oligodendrocytes die and determine whether blocking this pathway to enhance oligodendrocyte survival can improve nerve cell health in low oxygen conditions.  Additionally, this project will examine individual oligodendrocytes in order to understand which nerves they associate with, how they regulate nerve cell function to facilitate learning and memory, and how this is affected in dementia.

Where are they now?: 

Ben Summers commenced his PhD project in 2018 in the Glial Research Team at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania.