Professor Perry Bartlett

 - Chief Investigator

Research focus: Activation of endogenous brain stem cells to repair the aged, damaged or diseased central nervous system

Professor Perry Bartlett has been at the forefront of the discovery and study of neural stem cells (NSC) in the adult brain. A series of key discoveries from Bartlett’s laboratory (PNAS 1992; Neuron 1993) lead to the co-discovery and successful isolation of NSC from the adult mice forebrain (Nature 2001). 

The impact of this research was highly significant and the 2001 paper, which has attracted 353 citations, was included in Nature’s list of classic papers in the entire stem cell field. More recently Bartlett has focused on elucidating the cells and regulatory factors that influence the production of new neurons (termed neurogenesis) in the hippocampus, a brain region crucial for learning and memory.

Bartlett’s team identified the endogenous hippocampal precursor cell population and demonstrated that a brain-derived neurotrophic factor was a major regulator of neurogenesis (Journal of Neuroscience, 2005). A major career contribution from Bartlett was the identification of a small latent population of true hippocampal stem cells, which could be activated by depolarisation or prolonged synaptic activity (Journal of Neuroscience, 2008).

This was a major advance as it directly links synaptic input into the hippocampus with neuronal production, and may explain how a wide variety of external stimuli, from cognitive tasks through to physical exercise, exert a positive effect on adult neurogenesis. Professor Bartlett’s contribution to the Stem Cells Australian initiative will be to investigate the functional importance of hippocampal neurogenesis and oligodendrogenesis throughout the CNS. Bartlett will oversee the experimental studies to determine:
  • the key molecules that stimulate hippocampal neurogenesis
  • the properties of newly formed neurons, how they integrate with the existing neural network and the functional benefits of integration
  • the therapeutic effects of hippocampal neurogenesis within animal models of disease
  • the importance of hippocampal neurogenesis to learning and spatial memory formation.