Exciting research on diseases of ageing
A consortium of researchers will receive more than $3.5 million in Government funding.
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17 January 2005
A consortium of researchers led by Monash University will receive more than $3.5 million in Australian Government funding for research into the use of aspirin for reducing heart attacks, strokes and dementia in older Australians.
The Federal Minister for Ageing, Julie Bishop, welcomed the funding for the project, one of 13 projects into prevention and treatment of diseases of ageing to receive a total of almost $8 million in Australian Government funding for 2005 and beyond.
"Australia’s ageing population will offer many challenges and opportunities for our nation, as Australians live, on average, a third of a life longer than they did a century ago," Ms Bishop said.
"Research will play a key role in informing our community about ways to ensure those extra years continue to be not just longer, but also healthier, than previous generations.
"Preventing or delaying the onset of chronic disease associated with ageing, and better managing these conditions will enable older Australians to continue contributing actively to their local community, and our society, throughout their whole life.
"The projects being funded have enormous potential to reduce the financial and human cost of degenerative and chronic disorders.
"Our country can be proud of our Australian researchers who are leading the world in an area which could make a significant difference to our quality of life as we grow older."
The new funding is provided through the National Health and Medical Research Council’s Project Grants Scheme.
The aspirin project will involve a randomised, double blind, placebo-controlled trial of low dose aspirin in primary prevention of cardiovascular events and dementia in older people. Aspirin has been shown to prevent strokes and heart attacks, but previous trials contained very few older people, even though they are the group most at risk. The project will also explore whether aspirin can prevent dementia, which can be caused by repeated clots in large or small blood vessels.
In addition to Project Grants, the Australian Government has today provided a further $374,879 in Fellowships and Scholarships under the NHMRC’s Researcher Support Awards for researchers investigating diseases of ageing.
A list of successful Project Grants and Researcher Support Awards related to ageing is attached.
Media contact: Rachael Thompson 0417 265 289
Project Grants related to ageing include:1. John Curtin School of Medical Research, Canberra. Professor Ian Hendry, $239,250 over three years.
Protein targeting and signal transduction for treatment of neurodegenerative disease.
Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) moves to nerve cells by the process known as Retrograde Axonal Transport. Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s occur due to the death of nerve cells and disturbance of the transport process may contribute to this death. NGF can promote neuronal repair and survival after injury, but is toxic. The project will explore ways to obtain the benefits of NGF by using second messenger pathways downstream from the NGF receptor.
2. Australian National University, Canberra. Dr Shin-Ho Chung. $373,500 over three years.
Theoretical studies on the dynamics of ion permeation across membrane channels.
All electrical activities in the brain are regulated by opening and closing of ion channels. The exact atomic structure of several types of protein forming ion channels is now known. The project will use supercomputers to follow the motion of ions as they moved through channels and how the ions are selected. Understanding of this may provide cures for many neurological, muscular and renal disorders.
3 John Curtin School of Medical Research, Dr Greg Stuart. $254,250 over three years.
Mechanisms and consequences of cholinergic signalling in neocortical pyramidal neurons.
Cognitive defects associated with dementias such as Alzheimer’s Disease result in part from impairment of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. The researchers have recently discovered that acetylcholine produces opposing phasic and tonic actions on the excitability of brain cells in the cortex. This study will shed light on how acetylcholine influences cognitive function.
4 Edith Cowan University, Ageing and Alzheimer’s, Dr Simon Laws. $422,750 over three years.
Neurogenetics - early identification of Alzheimer’s Disease.
At present, Alzheimer’s Disease can only be positively diagnosed by post-mortem examination. This study will use biochemical, genetic and neuropsychological markers to identify individuals at high risk of developing cognitive decline leading to Alzheimer’s Disease, to improve the effectiveness of current and future drug treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease.
5 Monash University (with University of Adelaide and Baker Heart Research Institute). Professor John McNeil. $3,503,500 over five years.
Randomised double blind placebo-controlled trial of aspirin in primary prevention of CVD events or dementia in the aged.
Low dose aspirin has been found to prevent strokes and heart attacks in people at risk, but few elderly people have been included in trials. While the elderly may have most to gain, they are more likely to suffer from side effects. Aspirin prevents blood clots, but creates a tendency to bleed. Dementia can be caused by repeated clots in large or small blood vessels. Aspirin may reduce progression of the disease. For older people, quality of life may be more important than adding years to life.
6 Monash University. Dr Melanie Pritchard. $502,250 over three years.
Biochemistry and Cell biology - mental health.
The researchers have discovered a gene, Intersectin-1, located in human chromosome 21, which is at higher levels in individuals with Down’s Syndrome. Intersectin-1 has a role on endocytosis, the process whereby cells take up molecules from outside. A disturbance in endocytosis is reported as the earliest sign of Alzheimer’s Disease in people with or without Down’s Syndrome. The study will test the theory that malfunctioning of Intersectin-1 is the common disease mechanism.
7. Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Dr Paul Lockhart. $392,028 over three years.
Neurogenetics - Parkinson’s Disease.
The researchers have discovered a new gene, which they believe, may be involved in Parkinson’s Disease. The study aims to characterise this gene and what role it plays in development of Parkinson’s Disease, and to model Parkinson’s Disease in cellular and animal system to provide insights into the molecular pathways disturbed in the disease.
8. University of New South Wales, Professor Des Richardson. $447,750 over three years.
Frataxin and Friedrich’s Ataxia - mental health and neuroscience.
Friedrich’s Ataxia is due to the lack of the protein, frataxin. Studies by the researchers indicate a role for frataxin in metabolism of iron and pathogenesis of Friedrich’s Ataxia. Frataxin conditional mice will be used to assess this role and the ability of iron-binding drugs to prevent the pathology and create new therapies for Friedrich’s Ataxia.
9. University of Queensland, Dr Frederic Meunier. $269,250 over three years.
Membrane biology - diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases.
Release of hormones and neurotransmitters relies on a processed call exocytosis, which involves SNARE proteins. Availability of t-SNARE on the plasma membrane is believed to play a major role in controlling the amount of exocytosis, with ramifications for memory and learning. The researchers’ study of this process provides insights into the secretory mechanism with important implications for treatment of diseases such as diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases.
10. University of Sydney and University of NSW Professor Graham Johnston. $511,500 over three years. Basic pharmacology - mental health and neurosciences.
The project aims to investigate gingko compounds (in gingko biloba extract) and the related compound picrotoxinin on GABA and glycine receptors to treat the symptoms of old age dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Better understanding of these compounds will reveal how the receptor channels in the brain work and lead to better therapies.
11. University of Western Australia. Dr Nicola Lautenschlager. $393,700 over three years.
Geriatrics - Dementia.
Reduced awareness of cognitive impairment may be a better predictor of cognitive decline and dementia than mild cognitive impairment (MCI) alone. The study will follow 80 people with MCI and 80 healthy controls over a period of 24 months, measuring awareness and cognitive impairment. Neuroimaging and laboratory studies will also be used.
12. University of Western Australia, Fremantle Hospital and Health Service. Associate Professor Sergio Starkstein. $354,125 over three years.
Geriatrics - depression and dementia.
Depression in older patients, especially those with dementia, is often undiagnosed. The study will develop valid criteria for diagnosing depression in the different stages of dementia, and for patients living in different settings. This will assist early recognition and treatment of depression in individuals with dementia, greatly improving their quality of life.
13. University of Western Australia, National Ageing Research Institute. Dr Dina LoGiudice. $238,750 over two years. Geriatrics - Indigenous people.
The study builds on a project in the Kimberley in 2003 to assess the health needs of older Indigenous people, particularly in remote regions of Australia. This study expands on the previous work to include assessment of common conditions associated with age such as depression, incontinence and falls to determine use of health services and potential impediments to their use.
Researcher Support Awards related to ageing1. Dr Roger Chung, University of Tasmania. $264,000 over four years. Peter Doherty Fellowship
Developing metallothioneins as a therapeutic agent for treatment of Central Nervous System (brain/spinal cord) injury or neurodegenerative disease.
Dr Chung’s recent research has identified the exciting potential of metallothionein (MT) proteins as a neuroprotective and neuroregenerative agent. Treatment with the recombinant human MT, MT-IIA, promotes neuronal survival and brain healing following experimentally induced brain trauma. Based upon these results, the University of Tasmania has filed an international patent with Dr Chung as the first-named inventor covering the therapeutic potential of MT proteins for treating neurodegenerative disorders and acquired forms of brain/spinal cord injury.
2. Dr Clement Loy Garvan Institute of Medical Research. $90,042 over three years Medical Postgraduate Scholarship
Molecular biology of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and its clinical sequelae, at the genomic, proteomic, cellular and histologic levels.
Dementia affects 4.2 per cent of Australians over the age of 65. One in seven patients with dementia under the age of 65 is likely to be suffering from FTD. FTD incurs very high carer costs due to behavioural problems. The molecular basis of FTD can potentially shed light on other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease, and Motor Neuron Disease.
3. Miss Chew Lau. University of Melbourne. $20,837 over one year Dora Lush (Biomedical) Scholarship
Roles and regulations of glutamate transporters in neurodegenerative disease.
L-glutamate (Glu) plays major physiological and pathological roles in mammalian brain. High levels of Glu in the extracellular milieu elevates intracellular calcium initiating an injury cascade termed ‘excitotoxicity’, a neurodegenerative process is considered to be involved in both acute and chronic neurological conditions: (Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases).
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