Murray & Xiao laboratory: Neurotrophin and myelin


  • Joint Heads of Laboratory
    Dr Simon Murray & Dr Junhua Xiao

    +61 3 8344 5813, +61 3 9035 9759 (JX)

Research Overview

Myelin is the insulating sheath wrapping around many axons in both the peripheral (PNS) and central nervous system (CNS). Schwann cells in the PNS and oligodendrocytes in the CNS produce myelin, which provides not only electrical insulation to axons, but also metabolic support to neurons.

Human demyelinating diseases, such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), have a devastating impact on quality of life. It is the failure of the nervous system to repair myelin after a demyelinating insult that leads to disease progression and increasing disability. In addition, myelin damage is a common pathological feature of many neurodegenerateive diseases. However, there is currently an incomplete understanding of the molecular and cellular events that initiate, promote and maintain the interactions between neurons and glial cells that are vital for myelination in both the PNS and CNS. Our laboratory is particularly interested in understanding the molecular cues that are vital for myelination during development, and myelin repair after injury as well as developing new therapeutics for promoting repair after myelin injury. We use a variety of molecular, cellular, biochemical, genetic and confocal imaging techniques in combination with behavioural analyses and animal models of demyelinating disease to investigate these events.

Simon Murray

Simon Murray is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, and jointly heads the Neurotrophin and Myelin Laboratory with Dr Junhua Xiao.  Dr. Murray graduated as a Physiotherapist in 1992, worked for several years before returning to study and graduating with his PhD in 2000.  He spent 3 years as a post-doctoral fellow at the Skirball Institute at the New York School of Medicine, before returning to Australia to work at the Florey Neuroscience Institutes in the Multiple Sclerosis Research Division.  He moved his laboratory to the Centre for Neuroscience in 2005, and joined the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience in 2010.  His scientific training is in the molecular and cellular biology of neurotrophin signalling, and is applying this to the analysis of myelination, and how neurotrophin-based strategies could be developed to promote remyelination in the context of demyelinating disease such as Multiple Sclerosis. Find an Expert.

Junhua Xiao

Dr Junhua Xiao is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience and jointly heads the Laboratory of Neurotrophin and Myelin with Dr. Simon Murray.   She graduated with Bachelor of Medicine from Nanjing Medical University (China) in 2000 and obtained her PhD on neurobiology from the University of Melbourne in 2005, followed by her postdoctoral training investigating myelin biology at the Centre for Neuroscience.  In 2013,  Dr Xiao was appointed as a Tenured Academic by the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience and established her laboratory.  Dr Xiao has been the recipient of the prestigious NH&MRC Peter Doherty Fellowship (2007) and the ARC DECRA Award (2012). She currently serves as the President of US Society for Neuroscience Australia Melbourne Chapter, Panel member of US Society for Neuroscience Council TPDA Selection Committee, and Executive Committee Member of Australian-Chinese Association for Biomedical Sciences Inc.  Her research primarily focuses on understanding how myelination is orchestrated in health and how myelin repair is perturbed in diseases.  Find an Expert. Email Junhua Xiao.


Current Staff and Students
David Gonsalves, NHMRC Early Career Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr Jessica Fletcher, MSRA Postdoctoral Fellow
Rhiannon Wood, Research Assistant
Melissa Biemond, Research Assistant
Alistair Cole, PhD student
Fatemeh Daemi, PhD student
Madeline Nicolson, PhD student
Huynh Nguyen, Masters student
Zuoheng Jack Qin, Masters student
Sangwon Yoo, Honours student
Georgina Craig, Honours student

photo of the Murray-Xiao lab group

Lab Alumni

PhD students

Melanie Willingham (2006-2010)
Agnes Wong (2009-2013)
Anita Ferner (2011-2015)
Haley Peckham (2012-2016)

Honours students      

Agnes Wong (2004)
Laura Kirby (2010)
Alexa Prawdiuk (2016)
Jonathan Vu (2016)

BIOM30003 research students

Hillary White (2014)
David Homewood (2015)
Jacqueline Nguyen (2015)
Sangwon Yoo (2016)
Georgina Craig (2016)
Eleanor Norman (2017)
Christine Jun (2017)

MD project students

Mithraka De Silva (2016)
Emma Hoffmann (2017)

Past Honours students co-supervised with collaborators

Phillip Barnard (2012, Department Pharmacology & Therapeutics, UoM)
Wee Vien Seah (2013, Department Pharmacology & Therapeutics, UoM)
Richard Cassar (2015, Department Pharmacology & Therapeutics, UoM)
Daniel Marie (2016, The School of BioSciences, UoM)
Istafa Raza (2016, Monash University)



Associate Professor Tony Hughes, Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, The University of Melbourne
Professor Trevor Kilpatrick, Department of Anatomy & Neuroscience, The University of Melbourne
Professor Erica Fletcher, Department of Anatomy & Neuroscience, The University of Melbourne
Professor Anthony Hannan, The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health Research
Dr Tim Auman, The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health Research
Professor David Gardner, The School of BioSciences, The University of Melbourne
Dr Suzanne Hodgkinson, South Western Sydney Clinical School, University of NSW
Associate Professor Matthias Klugmann, Translational Neuroscience Facility, University of NSW


Dr Ben Emery, Oregon Health& Science University (USA)
Professor Rashmi Bansal, University of Connecticut (USA)
Professor Fang Wu, Shanghai JiaoTong University (China)



NHMRC Project Grant: 'Novel strategies to promote myelin repair in the brain'
NHMRC Project Grant: 'Developing a new strategy for treating peripheral demyelinating neuropathy'


MS Research Australia Project Grant: 'Novel neurotrophin-based strategies to promote remyelination in the brain'
CASS Foundation Research Project: Targeting nerve cells to restore brain function in multiple sclerosis
National Multiple Sclerosis Society (USA) Project Grant: 'BDNF signalling and its impact upon oligodendrocyte myelination in vivo'
ARC DECRA: 'The phosphorylation by transcription factors upon the myelinating process'
MS Research Australia Project Grant: 'Analysis of myelination'
NHMRC Project Grant: 'The role of BDNF in central nervous system myelination'
NHMRC Project Grant: 'Modulation of Neurotrophin Receptor signaling'

Research Outcomes

"Mimicking a cure", Australian Life Scientist, 14 August, 2013

“Kiss Goodbye to Multiple Sclerosis” - to support “World MS Day”. The Age, edited by Ms. Kate Hagan, 26 May 2010.

Research Publications

  1. Gonsalvez DG, Tran G, Fletcher J, Hughes RA, Hodgkinson S, Wood R, Yoo SW, De Silva M, Wong Agnes, McLean C, Kennedy P, Kilpatrick TJ, Murray SS, Xiao J.  A brain-derived neurotrophic factor-based p75NTR peptide mimetic ameliorates experimental autoimmune neuritis induced axonal pathology and demyelination. eNeuro 2017; 4(3): e0142-17. (DOI:
  2. Gonsalvez DG, Fletcher JL, Yoo SW, Murray SS, and Xiao J. A simple approach to induce experimental autoimmune neuritis in C57BL/6 mice for functional and neuropathological assessments. Journal of Visualised Experiments 2017; In Press  (RE#JoVE56455)
  3. Gonsalvez DG, De Silva M, Wood RJ, Giuffrida L, Kilpatrick TJ, Murray SS, Xiao J. A Functional and Neuropathological Testing Paradigm Reveals New Disability Based Parameters and Histological Features for P0180-199 Induced EAN in C57BL/6 Mice. J Neuropathol Exp Neurol 2017;  76 (2): 89-100.
  4. Akkermann R, Perera AA, Bujalka H, Xiao J, Cole A,  Kilpatrick TJ, Binder MD. The TAM receptor Tyro3 is a regulator of central nervous system myelination. GLIA 2017; 65(4): 581-591.
  5. Peckham H, Giuffrida L, Wood R, Gonsalvez DG, Ferner AH, Kilpatrick TJ, Murray SS, Xiao J. Fyn is an intermediate kinase that BDNF utilises to promote oligodendrocyte myelination. GLIA 2016; 64(2): 255-269.
  6. Gonsalvez DG, Ferner AH, Peckham H, Murray SS, Xiao J. The roles of Erk1/2 signalling in CNS myelination and remyelination. Neuropharmacology 2016; 110: 586-593.
  7. Cole A, Murray SS, Xiao J. Bone Morphogenetic Protein 4 Signalling in Neural Stem and Progenitor Cells during Development and after Injury. Stem Cell International 2016; (DOI: 10.1155/2016/9260592, in press)
  8. Murphy M, Wilson YM, Vargas E, Munro KM, Smith B, Li QX, Xiao J, Masters CL, Reid CA, Barrett GL. Reduction of p75 neurotrophin receptor ameliorates the cognitive deficits in a model of Alzheimer's disease. Neurobiology of Aging 2015; 36 (2):740-752.
  9. Gresle M, Butzkueven H, Perreau V, Jonas A, XIAO J, Thiem S, Holmes F, Doherty W, Soo PY, Binder M, Akkermann R, Jokubaitis V, Cate HS, Marriott M, Gundlach A, Wynick D, Kilpatrick TJ. Galanin is an autocrine myelin and oligodendrocyte trophic signal induced by Leukemia inhibitory Factor.  GLIA 2015; 63(6):1005-1020.
  10. Peckham HM, Ferner AH, Giuffrida L, Murray SS, Xiao J. Production and use of Lentivirus to selectively transduce primary oligodendrocyte precursor cells for in vitro myelination assays. Journal of Visualised Experiments 2015; 95: e52179.
  11. Wong AW, Giuffrida L, Wood R, Peckham H, Gonsalvez D, Murray SS, Hughes RA, Xiao J. TDP6, a brain-derived neurotrophic factor-based trkB peptide mimetic, promotes oligodendrocyte myelination. Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience 2014; 63C: 132-140.
  12. Mitew S, Hay CM, Peckham H, Xiao J, Koenning M, Emery B. Mechanisms regulating the development of oligodendrocytes and central nervous system myelin. Neuroscience 2014; 276:29-47.
  13. Xiao J, Hughes RA, Lim JY, Ivanusic JJ, Ferner A, Wong AW, Kilpatrick TJ, Murray SS, A small peptide mimetic of BDNF promotes peripheral myelination. #Corresponding author.  Journal of Neurochemistry 2013; 125(3): 386-98.
  14. Wong AW, Xiao J, Kemper D, Kilpatrick TJ, Murray, SS. Oligodendroglial expression of TrkB independently regulates myelination and progenitor cell proliferation. The Journal of Neuroscience 2013; 33(11): 4947-4957.
  15. Xiao J, Ferner AH, Wong AW, Denham M, Kilpatrick T, Murray SS. Extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 signalling promotes oligodendrocyte myelination in vitro. #Corresponding author Journal of Neurochemistry 2012; 122(6): 1167-80.
  16. Binder MD, Xiao J, Kemper D, Ma GZM, Murray SS., Kilpatrick TJ, Gas6 increases myelination by oligodendrocytes and its deficiency delays recovery following cuprizone-induced demyelination.  Plos One 6(3): e17727 (2011)
  17. XIAO J, Wong AW, Willingham M, van den Buuse M, Kilpatrick T, Murray S. Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Promotes Central Nervous System Myelination via a Direct Effect upon Oligodendrocytes. NeuroSignals 18(3):186-202 (2010).
  18. Xiao J, Wong AW, Willingham M, Kaasinen S, Hendry I, Howitt J, Putz U, Barrett G, Kilpatrick T, Murray S. BDNF exerts contrasting influence on peripheral myelination of NGF and BDNF-dependent DRG neurons. The Journal of Neuroscience 2009; 29: 4016-4022.
  19. Xiao J, Kilpatrick, TJ, Murray SS. The role of Neurotrophins in the regulation of myelin developmentt. NeuroSignals 2009; 17: 265–276.
  20. Wong AW, Wellington M, Xiao J, Kilpatrick TJ, Murray SS, The Neurotrophin Receptor Homolog-2 regulates Nerve Growth Factor signalling.  Journal of Neurochemistry 2008; 106(4): 1964-76.