Dr Mitchell Cummins

Dr Mitchell Cummins

Brief Profile / Biography 

I began my Bachelor Degree in Biomedical Science at the University of Newcastle in 2013, and began working in the lab of Associate Professor Doug Smith at the end of 2013 as a lab assistant investigating how cholesterol and lysosomal mechanisms change in the aged CNS.

Following completion of my degree in 2015, I started a Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Honours) in 2016 investigating the blood-brain barrier, and graduated with Class I honours. I also received the University medal and Dunkley medal for research. I started a PhD (Anatomy) supervised by Associate Professor Smith in January 2017, and graduated in January 2022. During this time, I also worked as an anatomy demonstrator with a particular interest in CNS anatomy. I began a Postdoctoral Fellow position at the University of New South Wales with Professor John Mattick in May 2021 investigating the roles of lncRNAs in the CNS, and the role of ultraconserved elements in genomes. 


Research Interests 

  • Brain and Spinal Cord Ageing 
  • Dementia 
  • Cholesterol 
  • Protein Aggregation 
  • Blood-Brain Barrier 
  • Glial Cells 
  • Regulatory RNA 
  • lncRNA 
  • Repeat Elements 
  • Genomics and Transcriptomics 
  • Development and Evolution of CNS Complexity 
     

Why did you get into research? 

I decided to investigate how the brain changes with age so we can determine why we have a loss of cognitive performance in old age, with a steep loss of performance at ~65 years of age. If we find out why this occurs, we can hopefully come up with drug and/or lifestyle interventions to help maintain cognitive performance well into old age. 
 

What would be the ultimate goal for your research? 

My research has several goals. The first would be to improve our knowledge of the regulation of CNS evolution, development, and maintenance. Our current understandings of these processes are heavily influenced by the focus on protein coding genes. This is despite the fact that the proportion of the genome devoted to regulatory RNAs, not protein coding RNAs, scales with developmental and CNS complexity. The second would be to understand which cellular mechanisms are perturbed in the aged CNS, so we can work towards interventions to prevent the development of dementia. 
 

Specialised/Technical Skills  

  • CNS anatomy 
  • Dissection of mouse brain tissues including hand dissection of CNS regions and laser microdissection. 
  • Protein fractionation and western blotting 
  • RNA analysis including qPCR, RNA sequencing, and microarray 
  • Bioinformatic analysis of repeat elements 
  • Building co-regulatory networks from RNA sequencing data 
  • Bioinformatic analysis of Crispr knockouts 
  • Capture-seq 
     

Affiliations 

  • HMRI Brain neuromodulation research program 
  • School of Biomedical Science and Pharmacy, University of Newcastle 
  • School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, University of New South Wales