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Delineating the Neural Epigenetic alteration

Contact: Dr Adele Woodhouse

Delineating the key neuronal epigenetic alterations in Alzheimer’s disease and healthy ageing

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a complex disease in which genetic and environmental risk factors interact and contribute to disease onset and progression. All of the cells in our body have the same DNA code, and in healthy individuals the right genes are expressed in the right amount, in the right cell types at the right time. This is achieved by the epigenome, which orchestrates the addition or removal of small chemical residues on top of the DNA (methylation), and modifications that alter how our DNA is packaged (histone modifications). Epigenetic marks on our DNA can change in disease and increasing evidence suggests that epigenetic changes contribute to the disease process in AD. However, few studies of epigenetic alterations in AD examine epigenetic changes in specific cell types or assess the different epigenetic layers together. We are examining the epigenetic changes in the set of nerve cells that degenerate and die in AD. In addition, we are also investigating how the epigenome of nerve cells can be enhanced in healthy ageing with an enriched environment.


  • To identify the key alterations across multiple epigenetic layers occurring in neurons in AD.
  • To determine whether environmental enrichment improves cognitive function in ageing via maintaining adult, rather than aged, epigenetic signatures in neurons.

Research Team:


  • Associate Professor Mark Robinson (Biostatistician, IMLS, Switzerland)
  • Dr Timothy Mercer (Bioinformatician, Altius Institute for Biomedical Sciences)


  • Judith Jan Mason and Harold Stannett Williams Memorial Foundation National Medical Program grant
  • Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation
  • Yulgilbar Foundation
  • National Health and Medical Research Council
  • Australian Research Council