Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative brain disease and the most common form of dementia, a group of brain disorders that affect a person’s memory, thinking and ability to interact socially. Alzheimer’s disease affects about 1 in 10 people over 65 years, and almost 1 in 4 people over 85 years.
At present, we don’t know what causes Alzheimer’s disease. We do know that people with this illness have abnormal material that builds up in their brain. These protein ‘tangles’ and ‘plaques’ disrupt communication between brain cells and lead to eventual cell death and brain shrinkage. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Available treatments only target symptoms, not the underlying biological cause of the disease.
We are conducting research into the role of inflammation in Alzheimer’s disease in order to find potential targets for therapeutic intervention. We are also studying how Alzheimer’s disease affects the brain and body early in the disease, with the aim of developing a diagnostic test. Through our research on healthy ageing, we are working with Indigenous communities to increase our knowledge about ageing and dementia in Australian Aboriginal people living in urban areas.
Dementia is usually thought of as a disease of ageing. However, the burden of young onset dementia, with symptoms occurring before age 65, has recently been identified as an important area not well supported by the health care system. Dr Bill Brooks has continued his development of information and support systems for use by families that have early onset hereditary dementias.
This research program explores the influence of dementia on the pattern of hospital admissions, clinical care, health outcomes and economic costs of older people with an injury-related hospitalisation. It provides data on the impact of injury on a person with dementia and the health system more generally.
The IFOCIS study aims to determine the ability of an individualised exercise and home hazard reduction program to reduce the rates of falls in older people living in the community with cognitive impairment or dementia. To do this, we have two groups– an ‘intervention’ group and a ‘control’ group. The Intervention program involves: an exercise program and a home hazard reduction program delivered by experienced therapists tailored to the participant’s cognitive and physical abilities. Carers are an integral part of the intervention team, as some participants require supervision for exercise sessions. We work with carers to help them understand how to get the best from the participant they are caring for, in terms of their ‘functional cognition’, completing the exercises and preventing falls.
Taking this individual approach means that participants can have very different cognitive abilities and still be included in our study. No other study has done this to date.
All participants will undergo an assessment at baseline with re tests at 6 and 12 months to compare each of these groups on things like strength & balance. The primary outcome is the rate of falls during the 12 month study period which is collected using falls diaries on a monthly basis.
Recruitment for the project is now in the 2nd year. We have enrolled 184 participants and their carers into the trial from the Prince of Wales hospital / NeuRA site and the Hornsby hospital site. We hope to have 360 participants enrolled by the end of 2017. We continue to recruit from Prince of Wales and Hornsby hospital wards and outpatient clinics and other Sydney metropolitan hospital dementia day clinics.
Falls and functional decline are common in people with dementia. Falls are more likely to result in injury, death and institutionalisation when compared to older people without dementia. There is limited evidence that falls can be prevented in people with dementia. Strategies aimed at maintaining independence and preventing decline and falls are urgently needed. This research will a) further our understanding of fall risk and functional decline and b) explore novel fall and decline prevention programs, including the use of technology in older people with dementia.
Both GSK3B and MAPT genes control crucial processes in the cell. We have shown that genetic polymorphisms in these two genes interact to increase risk for late-onset, idiopathic neurodegeneration. We aim to discover whether the two genes will have an effect in other diseases and to determine the biological mechanisms in the genes act to increase disease risk.
The aims of this project are to undertake the biological characterisation of this novel neurodegeneration gene. We are also examining a panel of commercially available and clinically relevant agonists and antagonists to modulate key pathways involved in Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.
We have looked at the impact of overeating on body weight, cholesterol and insulin levels and relating all of these changes to regions of brain pathology as demonstrated by MRI imaging. We are now extending these studies to investigate patients with motor neurone disease and with Alzheimer’s as well as those at risk of genetic FTD.
I invite you to read our latest publication – NeuRA’s 2016 Profile – where we have divided our research into five sections: childhood, adolescence, adulthood, midlife and older age to reflect the considerable range and diversity of our research. Significant achievements in human progress have come from harnessing the power of medical research, technology and innovation to accelerate health interventions. […]