Dr Tom Duncan

Postdoctoral Research Associate
School Medical Sciences
Anatomy & Histology

Member of the Charles Perkins Centre

Telephone 02 9351 0893

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Biographical details

Dr Duncan's focus is on the study of neuropathology and stem cell regenerative therapies. His current research projects include the study of canine dementia neuropathology, and the Skin-to-Neuron research programs in both caninesand humans. The long term goal of the Skin-to-Neuron project is to produce an effective cell based therapeutic treatment for Alzheimer’s disease by generating neurons from stem cell-like populations residing around the hair follicle. As a critical step in this process, Dr Duncan is also involved in the Dogs+cells trial– a promising cell based therapy that aims to reverse the clinical symptoms of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, a dementia-like syndome common in older dogs. He also co-runs Australia's first Canine brain bank, led by Prof Michael Valenzuela and Prof Michael Buckland, dedicated to processing, pathological characterization and archiving of canine dementia brain tissue.

Research interests

Neurodegenerative pathology

Alzheimer's disease

Neural stem cell therapies

Stem cell biology

Microscopy and microanalysis

Teaching and supervision

Lecturer, Masters of Brain and Mind Science postgraduate degree

Tissue Culture Workshop Tutor,Masters of Brain and Mind Science postgraduate degree

Anatomy demonstrator, Medical Sciences undergraduate degree

Journal Club tutor, Neuroscience undergraduate degree

Current projects

Canine Dementia research

We have pioneered the classification and diagnosis of canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) - a neurodegenerative disease in older dogs highly analogous in both symptoms and pathology to Alzheimer’s disease in humans. As such this disease represents a crucial naturalistic model that may aid in the development of future stem cell therapies or drug treatments for human neurodegenerative conditions.

Using brain tissue donated to the canine brain bank we aim to characterise and quantify the bimolecular and structural changes that occur within the brain of dogs with CCD using cutting edge multiplex immunochemistry, histological and biochemical analysis of neuropathology.

Skin-to-Neuron research

Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by progressive and catastrophic loss of neurons and synaptic connectivity within the brain, particularly affecting the hippocampus - the memory centre of the brain. An effective treatment may therefore aim to restore those lost neuronal populations and recover the synaptic networks critical for mnemonic and higher-order brain function. Neural stem cell transplantation is one experimental strategy towards this goal.

We have recently developed an efficient and high yield system of generating neurons from native skin, through the isolation of a naturally occurring unique population of hair follicle stem cells and their re-differentiation (without genetic manipulation) into neural precursors. These skin-derived neural precursors (SKNs) maintain a strong neurogenic potential and are able to differentiate exclusive into neurons in vitro.SKNs have been well characterised using donor adult canine tissue.

Transplantation of SKNs into the aged rodent hippocampus resulted in a dramatic reversal of memory impairment. SKNs showed high levels of neuronal differentiation and functional engraftment into host neuronal circuitry. In all our rodent studies so far, transplantation of these cells has been safe.

Our current focus is attempting to better understand the cellular mechanisms behind the therapeutic effect of SKNs with more extensive rodent transplantation studies. We have also begun translating this SKN technology for humans, including fully characterizing the neurobiological properties of SKNs cultured from healthy and Alzheimer’s disease human skin tissue.

The Dogs+Cells clinical trial

We are now undertaking a world first clinical trial investigating whether Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) in older dogs can be reversed by intracerebral transplantation of SKNs, and whether these cells have similar therapeutic effects within a pathological environment of the CCD brain. Success in this highly analogous, naturalistic disease model will facilitate the development of similar clinical trials in humans with Alzheimer’s disease.

Awards and honours

2017 ECR award, International Scoiety for Stem Cell Research Annual Meeting

2016 ECR award, ASSCR/AGCTS Annual Meeting

2016 Co-winner, Bosch Institute Micrograph of the Year Competition

2016 Presenter award, NSW Stem Cell NetworkAnnual Meeting

2015 ECR award, National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia

In the media

Group website rng.org.au/

Selected grants

2017

  • Skin to Neuron: A novel therapy for alzheimer's dementia; Duncan T, Valenzuela M; Rebecca L Cooper Medical Research Foundation/Research Support.

2016

  • The DOGS+CELLS Trial: A new pathway to treating Alzheimer's dementia; Duncan T, Valenzuela M; Equity Trustees Limited/Mason Foundation National Medical Research.

Selected publications

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Journals

  • Duncan, T., Valenzuela, M. (2017). Alzheimer�s disease, dementia, and stem cell therapy. Stem Cell Research & Therapy, 8(1), 1-9. [More Information]
  • Duncan, T., Lowe, A., Sidhu, K., Sachdev, P., Lewis, T., Lin, R., Sytnyk, V., Valenzuela, M. (2017). Replicable Expansion and Differentiation of Neural Precursors from Adult Canine Skin. Stem cell reports, 9(2), 557-570. [More Information]
  • Duncan, T., Lowe, A., Dalton, M., Valenzuela, M. (2016). Isolation and expansion of adult canine hippocampal neural precursors. Journal of Visualized Experiments, 117, 1-8. [More Information]
  • Truong, N., Si, E., Duncan, T., Valenzuela, M. (2016). Modeling neurodegenerative disorders in adult somatic cells: A critical review. Frontiers in Biology, 11(3), 232-245. [More Information]
  • Duncan, T., Baba, K., Oie, Y., Nishida, K. (2015). A Novel Method Using Quantum Dots for Testing the Barrier Function of Cultured Epithelial Cell Sheets. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, 56(4), 2215-2223. [More Information]
  • Hara, S., Hayashi, R., Soma, T., Kageyama, T., Duncan, T., Tsujikawa, M., Nishida, K. (2014). Identification and potential application of human corneal endothelial progenitor cells. Stem Cells and Development, 23(18), 2190-2201. [More Information]
  • Hayashi, R., Himori, N., Taguchi, K., Ishikawa, Y., Uesugi, K., Ito, M., Duncan, T., Tsujikawa, M., Nakazawa, T., Yamamoto, M., et al (2013). The role of the Nrf2-mediated defense system in corneal epithelial wound healing. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 61, 333-342. [More Information]
  • Tanaka, Y., Kubota, A., Matsusaki, M., Duncan, T., Hatakeyama, Y., Fukuyama, K., Quantock, A., Yamato, M., Akashi, M., Nishida, K. (2011). Anisotropic mechanical properties of collagen hydrogels induced by uniaxial-flow for ocular applications. Journal of Biomaterials Science. Polymer Edition, 22(11), 1427-1442. [More Information]
  • Duncan, T., Tanaka, Y., Shi, D., Kubota, A., Quantock, A., Nishida, K. (2010). Flow-manipulated, crosslinked collagen gels for use as corneal equivalents. Biomaterials, 31(34), 8996-9005. [More Information]

2017

  • Duncan, T., Valenzuela, M. (2017). Alzheimer�s disease, dementia, and stem cell therapy. Stem Cell Research & Therapy, 8(1), 1-9. [More Information]
  • Duncan, T., Lowe, A., Sidhu, K., Sachdev, P., Lewis, T., Lin, R., Sytnyk, V., Valenzuela, M. (2017). Replicable Expansion and Differentiation of Neural Precursors from Adult Canine Skin. Stem cell reports, 9(2), 557-570. [More Information]

2016

  • Duncan, T., Lowe, A., Dalton, M., Valenzuela, M. (2016). Isolation and expansion of adult canine hippocampal neural precursors. Journal of Visualized Experiments, 117, 1-8. [More Information]
  • Truong, N., Si, E., Duncan, T., Valenzuela, M. (2016). Modeling neurodegenerative disorders in adult somatic cells: A critical review. Frontiers in Biology, 11(3), 232-245. [More Information]

2015

  • Duncan, T., Baba, K., Oie, Y., Nishida, K. (2015). A Novel Method Using Quantum Dots for Testing the Barrier Function of Cultured Epithelial Cell Sheets. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, 56(4), 2215-2223. [More Information]

2014

  • Hara, S., Hayashi, R., Soma, T., Kageyama, T., Duncan, T., Tsujikawa, M., Nishida, K. (2014). Identification and potential application of human corneal endothelial progenitor cells. Stem Cells and Development, 23(18), 2190-2201. [More Information]

2013

  • Hayashi, R., Himori, N., Taguchi, K., Ishikawa, Y., Uesugi, K., Ito, M., Duncan, T., Tsujikawa, M., Nakazawa, T., Yamamoto, M., et al (2013). The role of the Nrf2-mediated defense system in corneal epithelial wound healing. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 61, 333-342. [More Information]

2011

  • Tanaka, Y., Kubota, A., Matsusaki, M., Duncan, T., Hatakeyama, Y., Fukuyama, K., Quantock, A., Yamato, M., Akashi, M., Nishida, K. (2011). Anisotropic mechanical properties of collagen hydrogels induced by uniaxial-flow for ocular applications. Journal of Biomaterials Science. Polymer Edition, 22(11), 1427-1442. [More Information]

2010

  • Duncan, T., Tanaka, Y., Shi, D., Kubota, A., Quantock, A., Nishida, K. (2010). Flow-manipulated, crosslinked collagen gels for use as corneal equivalents. Biomaterials, 31(34), 8996-9005. [More Information]

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