Investigating cellular mechanisms and genes behind exosome and tau trafficking in Alzheimer's disease.

Project opportunity

This Earmarked Scholarship project is aligned with a recently awarded Category 1 research grant. It offers you the opportunity to work with leading researchers and contribute to large projects of national significance.

The aggregation of the microtubule-associated protein tau is a defining feature of Alzheimer’s disease and other tauopathies. Tau pathology is believed to be driven by free tau aggregates and tau carried within exosome-like extracellular vesicles, which both propagate trans-synaptically and induce tau pathology in recipient neurons by a corrupting process of seeding. Investigations led by Dr Juan Carlos Polanco focus on three major lines of investigation:

  1. the role of exosomes in the spreading and induction of Alzheimer's tau pathology,
  2. elucidating mechanisms by which exosomes deliver cargoes into the cytosol, and
  3. discovering genes and elucidating cellular processes that lead to tau aggregation.

Control of tau propagation by targeting either exosomes or vesicle-free tau has been proposed as a therapeutic strategy. In our most recent study, we performed a genome-wide CRISPRi screen and identified ANKLE2, BANF1, NUSAP1, EIF1AD, and VPS18 as novel regulators of tau pathology induced by both exosomes and vesicle-free tau seeds. In this project, we will be undertaking follow-up investigations to determine subcellularly and mechanistically how the gene products of the discovered regulators affect tau aggregation, and to investigate whether tau pathology can be modulated in vitro in cellular models or in vivo in tau transgenic mice by genetically targeting the regulators, or potentially with drugs or chemical modulators. Other research avenues that will be explored are whether exosomal delivery into the cytosol can be controlled or modulated. Together, we expect that, by gaining a deeper understanding of how different tau seeds and regulators exert pathological effects, our research will also reveal novel therapeutic targets.

Scholarship value

As a scholarship recipient, you'll receive: 

  • living stipend of $32,192 per annum tax free (2023 rate), indexed annually
  • tuition fees covered
  • single Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)


Dr Juan Polanco

Queensland Brain Institute


Preferred educational background

Your application will be assessed on a competitive basis.

We take into account your

  • previous academic record
  • publication record
  • honours and awards
  • employment history.

A working knowledge of neuroscience, cell and molecular biology would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

A background or knowledge of tauopathy and molecular neurodegeneration is highly desirable.

Latest commencement date

If you are the successful candidate, you must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2025. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date.

If you are an international applicant, you may need to apply much earlier for visa requirements.

How to apply

You apply for this project as part of your PhD program application.

View application process