Brain immune-mediated disorders present in previously normal children and result in rapid alteration in neurological function. Children can become acutely blind, have disturbed movement, altered behaviour and psychiatry, loss of memory, or new onset severe seizures. The Neuroimmunology group’s aim is to identify novel or established autoantibodies and their role in children presenting with these disorders. These antibodies can be biomarkers and they can be used in early diagnosis and potentially early intervention with immune therapies. These autoantibodies can also be pathogenic: i.e. they can directly cause the diseases. One of the group’s priorities is to allow early treatment to improve the outcome of these children with altered brain function.
The Neuroimmunology group has three main research avenues:
1) Autoantibodies against Myelin Oligodendrocyte Glycoprotein in childhood brain demyelination and multiple sclerosis.
2) Autoantibodies against NMDA Receptor in childhood autoimmune encephalitis.
3) Other autoantibodies in neurological syndromes.
- We are seeking possible novel autoantibodies in other autoimmune movement disorders including Sydenham chorea, PANDAS, and autoimmune Parkinsonism.
- We are investigating autoimmune mechanisms in paediatric epilepsy including the role of Voltage-gated potassium channel antibodies in paediatric epilepsy.
- We are investigating the role of novel autoantibodies in cerebellar disorders, such as cerebellitis and post-infectious ataxia.
- We are interested in the role of neuromyelitis optica IgG and longitudinally extensive transverse myelitis in children with first episode of demyelination.
- We are also interested in the role of autoantibodies in movement disorders associated with systemic autoimmune disorders, such as Systemic lupus erythematosus.
The group is very grateful to receive funding from the University of Sydney postdoctoral fellowship scheme (both Dr Russell Dale and Dr Fabienne Brilot), the Early Career Researcher University of Sydney funding scheme, the Pfizer neuroscience awards, Tourette Syndrome Association, Brain Foundation Australia and the Trish Foundation Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, and Multiple Sclerosis Research Australia. In 2010, Drs Fabienne Brilot and Russell Dale were awarded a NHRMC new investigator project grant for their work on NMDAR encephalittis. The neuroimmunology group is particularly grateful for the recent funding from the Star Scientific Foundation which is supporting our work into brain demyelination and multiple sclerosis in children.