Meet A/Prof Timothy Bredy, Group Leader of Cognitive Neuroepigenetics at the Queensland Brain Institute, The University of Queensland.

Tim will be speaking about his work on long noncoding RNAs in the brain at our online Epigenetics seminar this month, and he has also agreed to tell us a little about himself and his work here.

Thank you Tim!

What brought you to the world of epigenetics and brain research? Can you tell us a little about your career journey?

I began my research career in behavioural neuroscience, primarily studying how early experience impacts learning across the lifespan. I was first exposed to epigenetics at McGill University, as a graduate student with Michael Meaney, where we studied the impact of early life stress on epigenetic programming.

As a postdoc, I moved to UCLA and found Yi Sun, who had recently discovered active DNA demethylation around the bdnf gene promoter in response to neural activation. I immediately took to the idea that the process could be involved in learning and memory.

Marnie Blewitt

It took a number of years for me to realise that my ‘discovery’ had already been documented back in the 1970s by Boris Vanyushin in Moscow. We were simply using more advanced methods to say the same thing! After this, I started to expand on the on the question of epigenetic mechanisms in brain plasticity. This led to a number of remarkable discoveries of which we are very proud- a role for 5hmC and other non-canonical DNA modifications in memory for instance.  

In your career to date, of what are you most proud?

I’m probably most proud of digging deeper into epigenetics and pushing the conceptual boundaries. For example, we now know that DNA structure states are critical for gene activation and repression related to memory. We have found a tight relationship between noncoding RNA mediated epigenetic regulation and memory formation, and recently, we began to document how epitranscriptomic mechanisms drive memory. 

Can you tell us about a couple of things happening in your lab right now? Is there something in particular that you’re excited about working on?

Lots of interesting work on novel classes of noncoding RNA in the brain these days. We are particularly interested in subcellular compartmentalisation of long noncoding RNAs. 

Would you like to tell us a little about the Queensland Brain Institute?

QBI is an outstanding neuroscience research institution working on the fundamentals of brain function. We have a really amazing diversity of researchers at the QBI, working on everything from axon regeneration in worms, to attention in flies and sensory processing in fish, to learning and memory in mice and humans. There are over 400 of us all with a common vision of understanding the basics of brain function.  

If funding and time were unlimited, what dream projects or ideas would you like to develop? 

To understand the space between the bases and reveal a subatomic level of memory storage in the brain.  

Outside your own lab, what research or technological developments in the field are you excited about?

 The ability to tag select cell populations, and their synapses in a temporal and activity-dependent manner. To be able to visualise DNA and RNA structure states in vivo. Amazing new developments in the field! 

How important has collaboration been to your research and your career?

Absolutely essential! Some of our most impactful work has evolved because of collaboration- I think more than 70% of all our publication have international and national collaborators. 

Can you give us one or two pieces of advice for early career biomedical researcher?

Aim for the trifecta- be outgoing and don’t be afraid to ask for anything, think laterally, and never give up. 

Outside of work, what do you like to do?

I have loved practising karate for more than 30 years, love travel (when we can), and love spending time with my family.