Brain Autoimmunity Laboratory, Kids Neuroscience Centre, Kids Research at the Children's Hospital at Westmead (Sydney Children's Hospitals Network)

Lab head: A/Prof Fabienne Brilot-Turville
Location: Kids Research at the Children's Hospital at Westmead

Lab members: F Brilot-Turville (inmr-nit), R Dale (inmr-nit),
Funding: NHRMC, the Star Scientific Foundation, Multiple Sclerosis Research Australia, Tourette Sydnrome Association USA
Research approach equipment: Our focus is to identify autoantibodies and to understand their role in the brain disease. Our group is part of the Kids Neurosciences Centre at Kids Research (the Children's Hospital at Westmead) and we are affiliated to the Brain and Mind Centre (Used). Kids Research is a global leading USyd-affiliated translational research centre. It is located at the heart of the Westmead campus in a new building besides the Children's Hospital at Westmead. Also present on the Westmead campus are the Westmead Institute for Medical Research and the Children Medical Research Institute. Kids Research is part of the Westmead Research Hub and shares state-of-the-art Hub facilities including flow cytometry, imaging, genomics, and proteomics cores.

Dale RC*, Tantsis EM*, Merheb V, Kumaran RY, Sinmaz N, Pathmanandavel K, Ramanathan S, Booth DR, Wienholt LA, Prelog K, Clark DR, Guillemin GJ, Lim CK, Mathey EK, Brilot F. Antibodies to MOG have a demyelination phenotype and affect oligodendrocyte cytoskeleton. Neurol Neuroimmunol Neuroinflammation2014 May 22;1(1):e12, doi: 10.1212/NXI.0000000000000012 *Contributed equally to this work.

Pathmanandavel K, Starling J, Merheb V, Ramanathan S, Sinmaz S, Dale RC, Brilot F. Antibodies to surface dopamine-2 receptor and N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor in the first episode of acute psychosis in children. Biol Psychiatry. 2015 Mar 15;77(6):537-47

Ramanathan S, Dale RC, Brilot F. Anti-MOG antibody: the history, clinical phenotype, and pathogenicity of a serum biomarker for demyelination. Autoimmun Rev. 2016 Apr;15(4):307-24

Sinmaz N, Amatoury M, Merheb V, Ramanathan S, Dale RC, Brilot F. Autoantibodies in Movement and Psychiatric Disorders: Updated Concepts in Detection Methods, Pathogenicity, and CNS Entry. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2015 Sep;1351:22-38. doi: 10.1111/nyas.12764. Epub 2015 Jun 17

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: Applied Medical Sciences, Westmead
Co-supervisors: Russell Dale
Keywords: Immune system diseases, Brain, Neuroimmunology