Professor Liz Milward (Honorary), Australia

Prof. Milward did doctoral and early post-doctoral research in Australia, specializing in Alzheimer’s disease, followed by an International Fogarty Research Fellowship at the US NIH National Institute of NeuroIogical Disorders and Stroke. Subsequent experience includes early pioneering studies on neural stem/progenitor populations (‘neurospheres) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and periods as a Visiting Fellow at the Johns Hopkins Dept. of Neurology and Neurosurgery. She studies the effects of iron and hemochromatosis on the brain. Her research is relevant to common diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease and also to the rare, sometimes fatal, neurogenetic disease family termed ‘Neurodegeneration with Brain Iron Accumulation’ (NBIA). The NBIAs may strike at any age and can cause movement impairment, convulsions, behavioral or psychiatric problems and sometimes even dementia in both children and adults. With long-time collaborator Dr Dan Johnstone, Prof. Milward’s group has evolved unique genetic mouse models and special techniques for investigating the relationships of iron and hemochromatosis with brain disorders. Their studies of models of hemochromatosis have shown increases in brain iron accompanied by changes in the expression of NBIA-related genes and myelin-related genes relevant to a range of rare and common brain diseases (e.g. Heidari et al. Mol. Psych. 2016 and Rare Diseases 2016), with new data also show Parkinson’s-like balance and movement problems. Since then, Prof. Milward’s group have been evolving and characterizing novel models that combine elevated brain iron with Alzheimer’s amyloidosis. This is leading to new understanding of the cellular regulation of iron in the brain that is providing new insights into how iron is involved in Alzheimer’s disease that throw into question many of the current assumptions in the Alzheimer’s and brain iron fields. Prof. Milward has recently relocated from the University of Newcastle, Australia, where she was Professor of Medical Genetics and Deputy Present of the Academic Senate (2014-2020), to focus full-time on her research at the Illawarra Institute of Health and Medical Research at the University of Wollongong, Australia.