Clinical Neuroimmunology

The Clinical Neuroimmunology group is a research group aiming to understand why brain development in some children is abnormal, develop biomarkers to understand the problem, and develop treatments to optimise brain development.

Neurodevelopmental disorders affect 10% of all children and their prevalence is rising rapidly. These disorders include autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive compulsive disorders, and tic disorders. At present our understanding of neurodevelopmental disorders is poor, and there are no disease modifying treatments available. Instead, parents have long waiting times for assessment, and treatments only target symptoms. There are no ‘disease modifying therapies’.

At present, neurodevelopmental disorders are defined by symptoms only - if you have inattention and problems with concentration, we call this ADHD. If you have repetitive and intrusive thoughts with actions to combat the thoughts, we call this obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

We aim to change this situation.

The premise of our work is based upon the role of environmental factors in pregnancy and early life affecting immune system and the brain. The Clinical Neuroimmunology group is a collective of clinicians, scientists and bioinformaticians who aim to better understand the role of the environment, epigenome, and immune-brain interactions in neurodevelopment. We use a range of techniques, including transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics, functional immune assays, and bioinformatics.

Our program of research has 5 key aspects:

  1. We have developed standardised digital tools, available online, to assess the family history, infection and immune history, and current neurodevelopmental and behavioural symptoms. Our assessment generates an automated report, available to parents. 
  2. We are characterising the causes and triggers of neurodevelopmental disorders, with specific focus on environmental risk factors, such as infections and stress. 
  3. We are exploring disease mechanisms in the pathophysiology of neurodevelopmental disorders, particularly, immune and epigenetic processes. 
  4. We have identified biomarkers and signatures of disease to enable earlier screening and detection of neurodevelopmental disorders.
  5. We are studying novel immunomodulatory treatments as therapeutic options to improve outcomes for children when conventional treatment fails. 
Prof Russell Dale

Prof Russell Dale

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Professor of Paediatric Neurology at USYD and CHW. He is rated in the top 0.005% of neuroinflammatory experts in the world by Expertscape and is the highest cited paediatric neuroinflammatory expert in the world.
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More team members

  • Dr Brooke Keating - Postdoctoral Research scientist
  • Dr Emily Innes - Fellow and Masters student
  • Erica Tsang - PhD Student
  • Dr Hiroya Nishida - Fellow and postdoc
  • Dr Jingya (Jinni) Yan - Postdoctoral Research scientist
  • Morgan Bucknor - PhD Student
  • Omar Hafed Shadid - PhD Student
  • Sarah Alshammery - PhD Student
  • Dr Shrujna Patel - Postdoctoral Research scientist
  • Dr Velda Han - Fellow and PhD student

Other collaborators include A/Prof Brian Gloss (WIMR), Dr Mark Graham (CMRI), Dr Igy Pang (CMRI), Dr Nader Aryamanesh (CMRI), A/Prof Markus Hofer (Charles Perkins Centre, USYD).