Professor Pamela McCombe


Research Interests

My research interest is in the field of neuroimmunology, both in how the immune system causes disease of the nervous system, and more recently in how the immune system might contribute to recovery from damage. Much of my work in neuroimmunology has been done in the fields of MS and in neuromuscular disorders. In MS I have been interested in the regulation of inflammation. My interest in neuromuscular diseases led to studies of ALS, both in neurophysiology and in immunology. An overarching theme of my work has been an interest in how gender and pregnancy influence diseases of the nervous system.

Research Projects

Motor neurone disease:

I am currently collaborating with Dr Rob Henderson in a study of motor unit number estimation, and collaborating with the staff of the Dept of Mathematics, QUT. This is a novel method of assessing loss of motor neurones in motor neurone disease. This will be correlated with studies of other biomarkers in motor neurone disease. We are also studying activation of peripheral leukocytes in MND.

Immune responses in stroke:

This study involves collecting blood form controls and patients with recent stroke, and measuring the number of circulating immune cells using flow cytometry. We have found increased numbers of Treg cells after stroke and now will characterize these cells.

Immune responses in inflammatory neuropathy:

This project involves the immunology of Guillain-Barre syndrome and chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy looking particularly at the role of T cell responses to gangliosides and regulatoryT cells.

The role of pregnancy in MS:

This project involves study of EAE, the animal model of MS, looking at the effects of pregnancy on the clinical course of disease and the effects of pregnancy on gene expression in the nervous system.

Key publications

McCombe PA, Pollard JD, McLeod JG. (1988) Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy. Clinical and electrophysiological features of 92 patients. Brain 110: 1617-1630.

McCombe PA, Nickson I, Tabi Z, Pender MP. (1996) Apoptosis of Vb8.2+ T lymphocytes in the spinal cord during recovery from experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis induced in Lewis rats by inoculation with myelin basic protein. Journal of the Neurological Sciences, 139: 1-6.

Harness J, Cavanagh AC, Morton H, McCombe PA. (2003) A protective effect of early pregnancy factor on experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis induced in Lewis rats by inoculation with myelin basic protein. Journal of the Neurological Sciences. 216: 33-41.�

Henderson RD, PG Ridall, Hutchinson NM, Pettitt AN, McCombe PA. (2007) A Bayesian statistical MUNE method. Muscle and Nerve 36: 206-213.

McCombe PA. (2008) Recombinant EPF/chaperonin 10 promotes the survival of O4-positive oligodendrocyte precursors in vitro. Cell stress and Chaperones. 13:467-74

McCombe PA and S Read. (2008) (REVIEW)� Immune and inflammatory responses in stroke - good or bad? International Journal of Stroke 3:254-265

Group Members

Jun Yan
Hayley Inglis
Fusun Baumann

Funding acknowledgement

NHMRC, NMSSA, Heart Foundation, Wesley Research Institute, Royal Brisbane Hospital Foundation

Potential PhD Projects

Gene expression in the brain in pregnancy in rats

Immune responses in human stroke

Genetic factors predisposing to human inflammatory neuropathy

Rate of loss of motor neurones in the SOD1 model of ALS


Prof Tony Pettitt

Dr Robyn Wallace

Dr Mark Bellingham

Prof Rob Henderson