2022 HDR Scholarship - What is the role of iron during brain ageing?

Curtin University

01 August 2022
01 March 2023
Engineering and Technology
Medical and Health Sciences

Description/Applicant information This scholarship is a component of Dr Mark Hackett’s ARC-Future Fellowship, which is aiming to develop the microscopy tools to study metal ion homeostasis in biological systems.

There are many studies in the literature that report global increases in brain iron (Fe) during natural ageing. The exact cellular location of the Fe increase, or indeed the mechanisms driving the increase remain to be elucidated. It is important to determine these mechanisms however, as adequate Fe homeostasis is critical to brain function. If certain brain cells receive too little Fe, while other cells receive excessive amounts of Fe, deleterious consequences can occur due to metabolic and cell signalling impairments (along an axis of Fe deficiency) or heightened oxidative stress (along an axis of Fe overload).

A limiting factor to past research in this field has been an over reliance on a classical histochemical method to study brain Fe, the Perl’s stain. Although the Perl’s stain is a valuable method to detect Fe, it does not detect total brain Fe. Our group has recently shown that in addition to the well established insensitivity of Perl’s staining to heme Fe, there are large amounts of intracellular neuronal Fe (presumably low molecular weight Fe), which is not reliably detected by Perl’s protocols.

Our research team has been developing direct spectroscopic imaging protocols to image total Fe, as well as different chemical forms of Fe in brain tissue. In this project you will continue to build on these analytical method developments to deliver the ability to image different Fe oxidation states and different Fe chemical forms (heme Fe, Ferritin, Fe-S clusters, and low molecular weight Fe) within different types of brain cells (e.g., neurons, astroyctes ,microglia). You will then apply these methods alongside additional biochemical methods (immuno-histochmeistry, mRNA expression) to both in vitro cell culture and pre-clinical animal models, to study Fe homeostasis during senescence.

This project is suitable for students with training in either cell biology, biochemistry, or chemistry, with the specific aims of the project able to be tailored to an individual students strengths and interests.

Student type

  • Current Students
  • Future Students


  • Faculty of Health Sciences
  • Faculty of Science & Engineering
  • Science courses

Value This scholarship provides a living stipend of $29,000 p.a. pro rata indexed, based on full-time studies, for up to a maximum of 3 years


Maximum number awarded 1

Eligible courses For HDR students in chemistry

Eligibility criteria

  • Australian Citizen
  • Full time enrolment
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All information about this funding has been collected from and belongs to the funding organization
19 April 2023