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Research

Cell Signalling Unit

The Cell Signalling Unit studies the detailed molecular mechanisms of how signals are sent from one cell to another in the body, with a focus on nerve cell signalling and developing new treatments for epilepsy and other neurological disorders, as well as using an understanding of dynamin and other signalling molecules to develop new treatments for a range of diseases.

We have the twin goals of advancing basic science and translating research findings into practice. The basic science focuses on understanding the normal signalling events within cells that allow nerve cells to communicate. Surprisingly, similar mechanisms also control the last stage of the cell division cycle. One way these are connected is called endocytosis – whereby cells internalize signals or nutrients from the outside. Many genes are required for endocytosis, but the master regulator is dynamin. Of the three dynamin proteins in the body, the CSU studies dynamin I (dynl) and dynamin II (dynll). Dynamin continues to reveal multiple functions, and cells have complex mechanisms they use to restrict dynamin’s activity.

We also study proteins that act in endocytosis, including clathrin and syndapin I. Our study of endocytosis has led to the development of small molecules that could potentially treat epilepsy, kidney disease and some infectious diseases. Although early days, this is an ambitious, long-term translational program aimed at capitalizing on our basic science discoveries to ultimately develop new disease treatments.

“Understanding how endocytosis occurs and is controlled is now helping us develop potential new therapies to control nerve communication and, hence, control diseases such as epilepsy.” - Phil Robinson

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