Dr Megan Brewer

Research Fellow
ANZAC Research Institute, Concord Clinical School

Telephone +44 2 9767 9105

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Biographical details

Dr. Megan Brewer is a Senior Hospital Scientist/Postdoctoral Fellow at the ANZAC Research Institute and an affiliated Research Fellow with the University of Sydney Medical School. Her overarching research interest is identifying and understanding the genetic causes of inherited peripheral neuropathies such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.

Having graduated from UNSW in 2006 with a BSc (Hons) majoring in media communications and molecular biology, Megan undertook her PhD through the University of Sydney at the ANZAC Research Institute. During this time she employed an array of molecular genetic techniques including genetic linkage analysis and next generation sequencing to search for the genetic mutation causing X-linked Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMTX3), an inherited peripheral neuropathy, in two large families. This was followed by a postdoctoral research position in the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Michigan where she used cell-line and zebrafish models to discern how genes causing Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease are transcriptionally regulated in myelinating Schwann cells. Megan was awarded a Sir Keith Murdoch Fellowship from the American Australian Association for her postdoctoral research at Michigan. Since returning to Australia, Megan continues to employ many of these molecular techniques to identify novel gene mutations in genetically undiagnosed patients with inherited peripheral neuropathy. To assist the detection of true neurotoxic mutations in patients Megan is establishing a C. elegans (worm) model whereby candidate gene mutations can be assessed for neurotoxicity.

Megan’s work has been recognised both on an international and national level having published several peer-reviewed papers and presented at numerous overseas and local conferences, including platform presentations. Conferences attended include the International Charcot-Marie-Tooth Consortium, GeneMappers Conferences, Australian Society for Medical Research Annual NSW Meetings and American Society of Human Genetics Annual Meetings.

Research interests

Inherited peripheral neuropathy encompasses a spectrum of commonly rare genetic diseases that disrupt predominantly the motor neurons (hereditary motor neuropathy), predominantly the sensory neurons (hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy) or both (Charcot-Marie-Tooth neuropathy) resulting in muscle weakness and/or impaired sensation in a patients’ hands and feet.

The disease is “common” because based on the clinical symptoms the incidence is one in every 2,500 individuals worldwide. This equates to at least 9,000 Australians with some form of inherited peripheral neuropathy. “Rare” because there are over 80 different genes that cause inherited peripheral neuropathy and most of these gene mutations are found in only one or two families in the world. Despite extensive knowledge on genes causing inherited peripheral neuropathy, up to 50% of patients remain genetically undiagnosed. Thus it is predicted there are many more rare genetic mutations to be found.

Megan’s research combines traditional genetics analyses with the latest next generation sequencing technologies, and uses molecular cell biology techniques and animal models to identify novel gene mutations that cause peripheral neuropathy. Each gene we discover adds a new piece to the puzzle which collectively will provide insight on the factors important for peripheral nerve development and maintenance. From this we will eventually identify targets for developing therapeutic treatments to alleviate, or possibly even cure, disease symptoms.

Awards and honours

Fellowships/Scholarships

  • American Australian Association Sir Keith Murdoch Fellowship (2012)
  • University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine Australian Postgraduate Award (2007)
  • University of NSW School of Medicine Honours Scholarship (2006)
  • University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine Summer Scholarship (2004 and 2005)
  • University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine Summer Scholarship

Travel Awards

  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association Travel Fellowship (2007, 2011 and 2013)
  • Peripheral Nerve Society Meeting Travel Award (2010)
  • Concord Repatriation General Hospital Travel Scholarship (2008)
  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association of Australia Travel Fellowship (2007)

Other

  • University of Sydney Postgraduate Research Support Scheme (2007, 2008 and 2009)
  • Short-listed for the Concord Hospital Early Career Research Award in Basic Science (2009)

Selected grants

2015

  • Prof Tony Basten Fellowship Scheme; Brewer M; University of Sydney/Internal Scheme.

Selected publications

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Book Chapters

  • Nicholson, G., Kennerson, M., Brewer, M., Garbern, J., Shy, M. (2009). Genotypes & Sensory Phenotypes in 2 New X-Linked Neuropathies (CMTX3 and dSMAX) and Dominant CMT/HMN Overlap Syndromes. In Carmen Espinos, Vicente Felipo, Francesc Palau (Eds.), Inherited Neuromuscular Diseases, (pp. 201-206). Dordrecht: Springer Science+Business Media. [More Information]

Journals

  • Brewer, M., Chaudhry, R., McDowall, K., Chu, S., Kowalski, B., Nicholson, G., Kennerson, M. (2010). X-linked CMT: genes and gene loci in an Australian cohort. Neurogenetics, 11(2), 267-9. [More Information]

2010

  • Brewer, M., Chaudhry, R., McDowall, K., Chu, S., Kowalski, B., Nicholson, G., Kennerson, M. (2010). X-linked CMT: genes and gene loci in an Australian cohort. Neurogenetics, 11(2), 267-9. [More Information]

2009

  • Nicholson, G., Kennerson, M., Brewer, M., Garbern, J., Shy, M. (2009). Genotypes & Sensory Phenotypes in 2 New X-Linked Neuropathies (CMTX3 and dSMAX) and Dominant CMT/HMN Overlap Syndromes. In Carmen Espinos, Vicente Felipo, Francesc Palau (Eds.), Inherited Neuromuscular Diseases, (pp. 201-206). Dordrecht: Springer Science+Business Media. [More Information]

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