Professor James Bourne

 - Chief Investigator

Research focus: Development, maturation and repair of the cerebral cortex in primates

Professor James Bourne heads a group within the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute that aims to better understand the development of the visual cortex as a precursor to addressing questions of cell replacement and regeneration. More recently, he moved into the area of stem cell biology, examining the potential of the neocortex to self-repair.

In particular, he has identified neural precursor cells residing in the primary visual cortex of postnatal animals that can be propagated in vitro in the presence of growth factors that give rise to the three neural lineages, namely, neurones, astrocytes and oligodendrocytes. Professor Bourne and his collaborators have also demonstrated the capacity to culture neural precursor cells (NPCs) from the adult neurogenic niche of the marmoset monkey, specifically the subventricular zone of the lateral ventricles and the hippocampus. 

Virtually no data exist in the literature on in vitro propagation of nonhuman primate neural precursors cells from the adult brain. Furthermore, Professor Bourne has considerable experience in the study of anatomical changes occuring following cortical injury in the postnatal marmoset monkey. He is thus in a unique position internationally to validate many of the critical principles of neural stem cell biology in a non-human primate that much more closely approximates the complexity of the human brain.

Professor Bourne will work closely with the other CIs in the Stem Cells Australia initiative to validate core principles of neural stem cell biology in the normal and injured nonhuman primate brain as a critical measure to understanding the response of NPCs to cortical injury in the nonhuman primate. This will provide a fundamental proof-of-principle step in determining that endogenous NPC responses translate to higher-order mammals and will provide support for the view that modulating such responses in the human could be a feasible approach to potentiating CNS repair.