SEGH Articles

Winner of the Malcolm Brown Outstanding Young Scientist Award

12 August 2016
Gabriel Enge won the Malcolm Brown outstanding young scientist award at the 32nd SEGH International conference in Brussels. He describes his research leading to this award.

I am a research scientist, working on the application of medical isotope metallomics to neurodegenerative diseases. Neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by a progressive loss of neuron function. Illnesses, such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are located within the family of neurodegenerative diseases.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis was first described in 1869 (Charcot & Joffroy 1869) and is a fatal, predominantly adult-onset neurodegenerative disease that leads to the selective death of motor neurons (Redler & Dokholyan 2012; Rowland & Shneider 2001). This selective death causes progressive muscle paralysis and spasticity, affecting mobility, speech and respiration (Hardiman et al. 2011). Most patients are fully aware of the disease progression, with about half of all affected individuals passing away within 3-5 years of diagnosis, while less than 20% survive more than 5 years (Robberecht & Philips 2013). Approximately 90% of ALS cases are sporadic, and the remaining, familial (Robberecht & Philips 2013). The neuropathology of ALS is staggeringly complex on a subcellular level and includes abnormalities in almost every cellular compartment. It was additionally observed that concentrations of several elements were elevated in the cerebro spinal fluid of ALS patients (Roos et al. 2013), and that mouse models demonstrated specific accumulations of metals (Cu, Zn) in key tissues, such as brain and spinal cord (Li et al. 2006; Tokuda et al. 2007; Tokuda et al. 2013). In spite of our tremendous advances into understanding the disease and its progression in the past 150 years, no diagnostic tools or cures are currently available.

Here at the University of Wollongong, in the Wollongong Isotope Geochronology Laboratory, I have established with my PhD project a new way of looking at the disease. By taking a mouse model of the disease, and applying geochemical analytical techniques of measuring metal concentrations and Cu isotope ratios in tissues, I attempt to gain a more profound understanding of metabolic perturbations that involve metals, in particular Cu. One of the novelty factors of the research includes a time and disease development dependent resolution of changes in metal concentrations and Cu isotope ratios. Future work includes a spatial resolution component using laser ablation methods.

Besides my interest in neurodegenerative diseases, I am also very interested in using metallomics and isotope methods to trace ageing processes in humans, and explore different metabolic ageing processes. Another interest is the continued automation of manual ion-exchange chromatography procedures in order to be able to establish them as part of clinically-diagnostic routines.



Heading: Fun at work with the Neptune Plus MC-ICP-MS



"Let's keep looking in spite of everything. Let us keep searching. It is indeed the best method of finding, and perhaps thanks to our efforts, the verdict we will give such a patient tomorrow will not be the same we must give this man today" - Jean-Martin Charcot (1889).

Charcot's words have been my inspiration since the start of my candidacy and I want to express my deep gratitude for receiving the Malcolm Brown Outstanding Young Scientist Award. I realise that I am not at a stage of my career where I have much to show yet, and therefore I am especially thankful for this indication of support from the community. 



By T. Gabriel Enge, PhD Candidate, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong, Australia


J. Charcot and A. Joffrey, Arch. Physiol. Norm. Pathol., 1869, 2, 354-744.

R.L. Redler and N.V. Dokholyan, Prog. Mol. Biol. Trans. Sci., 2012, 107, 215-262

L.P. Rowland and N.A. Schneider, N. Engl. J. Med., 2001, 344, 1688-1700.

O. Hardiman et al., Nat. Rev. Neurol., 2011, 7, 639-649.

W. Robberecht and T. Philips, Nat. Rev. Neurosci., 2013, 14, 248-264.

P.M. Roos et al. Biol. Trace Elem. Res., 2013, 151, 159-170.

Q-X Li et al. Aging Cell, 2006, 5, 153-165.

E. Tokuda et al. Toxicology, 2007, 229, 33-41.

E. Tokuda et al., Neurobiol. Dis., 2013, 54, 308-319.

Keep up to date

SEGH Events

Submit Content

Members can keep in touch with their colleagues through short news and events articles of interest to the SEGH community.

Science in the News

Latest on-line papers from the SEGH journal: Environmental Geochemistry and Health

  • Status, source identification, and health risks of potentially toxic element concentrations in road dust in a medium-sized city in a developing country 2017-09-19


    This study aims to determine the status of potentially toxic element concentrations of road dust in a medium-sized city (Rawang, Malaysia). This study adopts source identification via enrichment factor, Pearson correlation analysis, and Fourier spectral analysis to identify sources of potentially toxic element concentrations in road dust in Rawang City, Malaysia. Health risk assessment was conducted to determine potential health risks (carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic risks) among adults and children via multiple pathways (i.e., ingestion, dermal contact, and inhalation). Mean of potentially toxic element concentrations were found in the order of Pb > Zn > Cr(IV) > Cu > Ni > Cd > As > Co. Source identification revealed that Cu, Cd, Pb, Zn, Ni, and Cr(IV) are associated with anthropogenic sources in industrial and highly populated areas in northern and southern Rawang, cement factories in southern Rawang, as well as the rapid development and population growth in northwestern Rawang, which have resulted in high traffic congestion. Cobalt, Fe, and As are related to geological background and lithologies in Rawang. Pathway orders for both carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic risks are ingestion, dermal contact, and inhalation, involving adults and children. Non-carcinogenic health risks in adults were attributed to Cr(IV), Pb, and Cd, whereas Cu, Cd, Cr(IV), Pb, and Zn were found to have non-carcinogenic health risks for children. Cd, Cr(IV), Pb, and As may induce carcinogenic risks in adults and children, and the total lifetime cancer risk values exceeded incremental lifetime.

  • Erratum to: Preliminary assessment of surface soil lead concentrations in Melbourne, Australia 2017-09-11
  • In vivo uptake of iodine from a Fucus serratus Linnaeus seaweed bath: does volatile iodine contribute? 2017-09-02


    Seaweed baths containing Fucus serratus Linnaeus are a rich source of iodine which has the potential to increase the urinary iodide concentration (UIC) of the bather. In this study, the range of total iodine concentration in seawater (22–105 µg L−1) and seaweed baths (808–13,734 µg L−1) was measured over 1 year. The seasonal trend shows minimum levels in summer (May–July) and maximum in winter (November–January). The bathwater pH was found to be acidic, average pH 5.9 ± 0.3. An in vivo study with 30 volunteers was undertaken to measure the UIC of 15 bathers immersed in the bath and 15 non-bathers sitting adjacent to the bath. Their UIC was analysed pre- and post-seaweed bath and corrected for creatinine concentration. The corrected UIC of the population shows an increase following the seaweed bath from a pre-treatment median of 76 µg L−1 to a post-treatment median of 95 µg L−1. The pre-treatment UIC for both groups did not indicate significant difference (p = 0.479); however, the post-treatment UIC for both did (p = 0.015) where the median bather test UIC was 86 µg L−1 and the non-bather UIC test was 105 µg L−1. Results indicate the bath has the potential to increase the UIC by a significant amount and that inhalation of volatile iodine is a more significant contributor to UIC than previously documented.