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Brain Growth and Disease Laboratory

Nedlands, Western Australia, AU

Head of the Brain Growth and Disease Laboratory, Associate Professor Julian Heng studies the molecular and cellular mechanisms which control fetal brain development, with particular emphasis on the production of new nerve cells and their development as functional circuits. This research has significant implications for the diagnosis and treatment of brain disorders. In addition, our discoveries contribute to the development of future therapies which enhance the limited regenerative capacity of the adult brain to repair itself through the formation of appropriate replacement circuits in times of injury or stress.

The Brain Growth and Disease Laboratory specializes in characterisation of genes involved in brain development, particularly through in utero electroporation (IUE). IUE involves opening up a pregnant mouse dam and pulling out the uterine horns containing embryos, injecting DNA constructs into the... Show more »

Head of the Brain Growth and Disease Laboratory, Associate Professor Julian Heng studies the molecular and cellular mechanisms which control fetal brain development, with particular emphasis on the production of new nerve cells and their development as functional circuits. This research has significant implications for the diagnosis and treatment of brain disorders. In addition, our discoveries contribute to the development of future therapies which enhance the limited regenerative capacity of the adult brain to repair itself through the formation of appropriate replacement circuits in times of injury or stress.

The Brain Growth and Disease Laboratory specializes in characterisation of genes involved in brain development, particularly through in utero electroporation (IUE). IUE involves opening up a pregnant mouse dam and pulling out the uterine horns containing embryos, injecting DNA constructs into the ventricular space and then electroporating the brain so that the constructs are taken up into some of the cells. We then return the uterine horns back into the pregnant mouse, who recovers for a specific number of days (often 2 to 4 days, or until the electroporated embryos themselves reach adulthood) and then we collect and dissect out the brains for analysis. The brains are cryosectioned and stained using immunohistochemistry, and various aspects can be examined, including neuronal migration, differentiation, 3D reconstruction of neurons and associated scholl analysis, dendritic complexity, dendritic spine shape and density, etc.

Recent Publications

  1. Berkowicz SR, Featherby TJ, Qu Z, Giousoh A, Borg NA, Heng JI, Whisstock JC, Bird PI. Brinp1-/- mice exhibit autism-like behaviour, altered memory, hyperactivity, and increased Parvalbumin-positive cortical interneuron density. Molecular Autism. 2016, in press. [IF=5.4]
  2. Gladwyn-Ng, IE, Huang, L, Ngo L, Li SS, Qu Z, Vanyai HK, Cullen HD, Davis JM, Heng JI. Bacurd1/Kctd13 and Bacurd2/Tnfaip1 are interacting partners to Rnd proteins which influence the long-term positioning and dendritic maturation of cerebral cortical neurons. Neural Development. 2016 Mar 11;11(1):7. doi: 10.1186/s13064-016-0062-1. [IF=3.72]
  3. Harris L., Zalucki O., Piper M, Heng JI. Insights into the biology and therapeutic applications of neural stem cells. Stem Cells International. 2016, doi:10.1155/2016/9745315. [IF=2.81]
  4. Hemming IA, Forrest AR, Shipman P, Woodward KJ, Walsh P, Ravine DG, Heng JI. Reinforcing the association between distal 1q CNVs and structural brain disorder: A case of a complex 1q43-q44 CNV and a review of the literature. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B Neuropsychiatric Genetics. 2016 Feb 7. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.b.32427. [IF=2.3]
  5. Sim J, Scerri T, Fanjul Fernandez M, Risely J, Gillies G, Pope K, van Roozendaal H, Heng JI, Mandelstam S, McGillivray G, McGregor D, Kannan L, Maixner W, Harvey SA, Amor D, Delatycki M, Crino P, Bahlo M, Lockhart P, Leventer R. Familial cortical dysplasia caused by mutation in the mTOR regulator NPRL3. Annals of Neurology. 2015 accepted [IF= 9.97]
  6. Xu X-J, Jaehne EJ, Greenberg Z, McCarthy P, Saleh E, Parish CL, Heng JI, Haas M, Baune BT, Ratnayke U, Buuse M, Lopez AF, Ramshaw HS, Schwarz Q. Deficiency of 14-3-3ζ causes behavioural and anatomical defects associated with neurodevelopmental disorders. Scientific Reports. 2015 Jul 24;5:12434. doi: 10.1038/srep12434 [IF=5.078]
  7. Gladwyn-Ng L, Li SS, Qu Z, Davis JM, Ngo L, Haas MA, Singer JD, Heng JI. Bacurd2 is a novel interacting partner to Rnd2 which controls radial migration within the developing mammalian cerebral cortex. Neural Development. 2015 2015 Mar 31;10:9. doi: 10.1186/s13064-015-0032-z. [IF=3.72] Manuscript is “Highly Accessed”.
  8. Ngo L, Haas M, Qu Z, Li SS, Zenker J, Teng KS-L, Gunnersen JM, Breuss M, Habgood M, Keays DA, Heng JI. TUBB5 and its disease-associated mutations influence the terminal differentiation and dendritic spine densities of cerebral cortical neurons. Human Molecular Genetics. 2014 May 15. pii: ddu238.
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Gene Characterization
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Associate Professor Julian Heng studies the molecular and cellular mechanisms which control fetal brain development, with particular emphasis on the production of new nerve cells and their development as functional circuits. This research has significant implications for the diagnosis and treatment of brain disorders. In addition,... Show more »

Associate Professor Julian Heng studies the molecular and cellular mechanisms which control fetal brain development, with particular emphasis on the production of new nerve cells and their development as functional circuits. This research has significant implications for the diagnosis and treatment of brain disorders. In addition, our discoveries contribute to the development of future therapies which enhance the limited regenerative capacity of the adult brain to repair itself through the formation of appropriate replacement circuits in times of injury or stress.

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Development
CNS/Neurology
In utero Electroporation
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IUE involves opening up a pregnant mouse dam and pulling out the uterine horns containing embryos, injecting DNA constructs into the ventricular space and then electroporating the brain so that the constructs are taken up into some of the cells. We then return the uterine horns back into the pregnant mouse, who recovers for a... Show more »

IUE involves opening up a pregnant mouse dam and pulling out the uterine horns containing embryos, injecting DNA constructs into the ventricular space and then electroporating the brain so that the constructs are taken up into some of the cells. We then return the uterine horns back into the pregnant mouse, who recovers for a specific number of days (often 2 to 4 days, or until the electroporated embryos themselves reach adulthood) and then we collect and dissect out the brains for analysis. The brains are cryosectioned and stained using immunohistochemistry, and various aspects can be examined, including neuronal migration, differentiation, 3D reconstruction of neurons and associated scholl analysis, dendritic complexity, dendritic spine shape and density, etc.

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Transfection
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Cell and Tissue Culture
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DNA
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