Dr Megan Brewer
ANZAC Research Institute, Concord Clinical School
|Telephone||+61 2 9767 9105|
Dr. Megan Brewer is a Senior Hospital Scientist/Postdoctoral Fellow at the ANZAC Research Institute and an affiliated Research Fellow with Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney. Her overarching research interest lies in 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.
Inherited peripheral neuropathy encompasses a spectrum of 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.
Although considered rare, the disease affects one in every 2,500 individuals worldwide, which equates to at least 9,000 Australians with some form of inherited peripheral neuropathy. 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 discovery adds a new piece to the puzzle which collectively will provide insight into factors important for peripheral nerve development and maintenance. This will then lead to the identification of pathways that can be targeted in developing therapeutic treatments to alleviate, or possibly even cure, disease symptoms.
Awards and honours
- Sydney Research SLHD Annual Health Research Infrastructure Award (2015)
- 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
- Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association Travel Fellowship (2007, 2011, 2013 and 2016)
- Peripheral Nerve Society Meeting Travel Award (2010 and 2015)
- Concord Repatriation General Hospital Travel Scholarship (2008 and 2015)
- Sydney Medical School Travel Scholarship (2015)
- Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association of Australia Travel Fellowship (2007)
- Third place for Concord Hospital's 3 Minute Challenge (2015)
- 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)
Honours project opportunities
- Prof Tony Basten Fellowship Scheme; Brewer M; University of Sydney/Internal Scheme.