Neuroimmunology Group, Institute for Neuroscience and Muscle Research, Kids Research Institute at the Childrne's Hospital at Westmead (Sydney Children's Hospitals Network)

Lab head: Dr Fabienne Brilot-Turville
Location: Kids Research Institute at the Children's Hospital at Westmead

Lab members: K North (depthead), K North (head), S Cooper (inmr-dmrt), N Clarke (inmr-mmdt), B Barton (inmr-nft), R Webster (inmr-nft), J Burns (inmr-crt), E Oates (inmr-crt), R Dale (inmr-nit), F Brilot-Turville (inmr-nit), S Pillai (inmr-nit), B Owler (inmr-nst)
Funding: NHRMC, the Star Scientific Foundation, Multiple Sclerosis Research Australia, Tourette Sydnrome Association USA
Research approach equipment: Our focus is to identify new targets of antibodies and to study the role of these antibodies in the pathogenesis of brain immune-mediated diseases in children. Our group is part of the Institute for Neuroscience and Muscle Research at the Kids Research Institute (the Children's Hospital at Westmead). The Kids Research Institute is a global leading translational research center for children associated with the University of Sydney. It is located in a brand new building besides the Children's Hospital at Westmead. Also present on the Westmead campus are the Westmead Millenium Institute and the Children Medical Research research Institute. The three institutes share state-of-the-art facilities including flow cytometry, imaging, genomics, and proteomics cores.

MohammadSS, SinclairK, PillaiS, MerhebV, AumannTD, Gill D, Dale RC, Brilot F.Herpes Simplex encephalitis relapse with chorea is associated with autoantibodies to NMDA Receptor or Dopamine-2 receptor. Movement Disorders Journal. accepted for publication on July 1st 2013. (I.F.: 4.558)

Amatoury M, Merheb V, Langer J, Wang XM, Dale RC, and Brilot F. High-throughput flow cytometry cell-based assay to detect antibodies to N-Methyl D-Aspartate receptor or Dopamine-2 receptor in human serum. Journal of Visualized Experiments. accepted for publication on March 27th 2013. In press.

DaleRC, Pillai S, & Brilot F. Cerebrospinal fluid CD19+ B cell expansion in NMDAR encephalitisDev Med Child Neurol. 2013; 55(2): 191-3(I.F.: 3.09)

DaleRC, MerhebV, Pillai S, WangD, CantrillL, MurphyTK, Ben-PaziH, VaradkarS, AumannTD, HorneMK, ChurchAJ, FathT, & Brilot F.Antibodies to surface dopamine 2 receptor in autoimmune movement and psychiatric disorders. Brain. 2012 vol. 135(11): 3453-3468 (I.F.: 9.45). This manuscript’s findings are highlighted in 1) Scientific Commentary written by Min Ling and Angela Vincent in Brain 2012:135; 3201-3205, 2) “Hot Topics” commentary written by Bettina Balint and Kailash Bhatia in Movement Disorders Journal, 2013: 28 (6); 733.

Understanding the role of T cells in autoantibody-associated movement and psychiatric disorders

Primary supervisor: Fabienne Brilot-Turville

Movement and psychiatric disorders, such as encephalitis, Sydenham’s Chorea, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and Tourette syndrome occur frequently and affect the brain of children. Their symptoms are depression, psychosis, sleep disorders, seizures, and a full range of movement disorders. Finding a treatment is challenging, and therefore they often lead to neurological disability. A humoral (B cell and antibody) autoimmune response has been identified in subgroups of children. The targets of the attack are important brain proteins against which antibodies are raised, such as neurotransmitter receptors, or voltage-gated ion channels. This discovery has raised new hope for the treatment of these children as humoral immunity-targeted therapies have shown promising results in adults. However, like in numerous immune-mediated diseases, there probably is a cross-talk between T and B cells that would be important for pathogenesis.This research project is aimed at analysing T cell responses produced in children affected by autoantibody-associated brain diseases.

Our research will greatly improve the understanding of these brain immune-mediated diseases with direct translational effects into the care of these patients.

Techniques: Isolation of PBMCs, ELISpot assay, immunocytochemistry, confocal fluorescence microscopy, and flow cytometry will be used.

Interested students are strongly advised to contact the project supervisor to discuss potential honours and Ph.D. projects (

Discipline: Infectious diseases and Immunology
Co-supervisors: Russell Dale
Keywords: Immune system diseases, Brain, Neuroimmunology