NeuRA Magazine #21

NEURA PARTICIPATES IN GLOBAL RESEARCH INTO ALZHEIMER’S PREVENTION

In conversation with Dr Bill Brooks
Tell us about your work with families with the genetic form for Alzheimer’s disease
I have been working with these families for over 25 years and we are involved here at NeuRA with a global research study called DIAN (Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network). This study set out to look for biological changes that occur in people before they develop the Alzheimer’s symptoms such as memory loss. Over the last two years, we have been working on a clinical trial aimed at preventing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, by removing amyloid from the brain, before symptoms develop and before the nerve cells deteriorate. It has been a lot of work for us – and it’s an even more demanding task for the clinical trial participants, but it is all going well so far.

 

What is the next big step in the DIAN program?
By the end of this year everyone in the study worldwide will have been on the double-blind phase of the trial for two years, so at the end of this year, we will start looking at the data to examine the evidence and results which will frame the next phase of this ground-breaking research program.

 

What does the next phase of the research look like?
The next phase of the DIAN trial, as far as the first two drugs are concerned, is that they will be reviewed to see whether they have a significant influence on reducing amyloid deposition in the brain. If so, the trial participants will go on for another two years, to see if we the trial can demonstrate an effect on people’s memory and thinking. We also have plans to start a third drug arm this year. This process will roll on until a breakthrough is discovered which prevents the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

 

How do you feel being at the pointy end of science?
When I was a medical student there was no treatment or cure for Alzheimer’s. It was not even on the horizon. It was thought probably to be one of those things, which were just not treatable. Over the last couple of decades, we have seen gradual but major increases in our knowledge, and we are now in a position where we hope we can make the same inroads into Alzheimer’s as we have into cancer, heart disease and stroke.

Here at NeuRA, we are really proud to be part of this international effort to find a preventative drug treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. For me it’s a culmination of many decades of work. To be stepping closer to discovery is what drives us all to keep pushing into the next phase of the DIAN research program.

 

We need your help to keep clinical trial running in Australia to make sure that the next phase of the trial is completed. You can donate at neura.edu.au/donate/

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FEEL THE BUZZ IN THE AIR? US TOO.

Cortical activity during balance tasks in ageing and clinical groups using functional near-infrared spectroscopy

Prof Stephen Lord, Dr Jasmine Menant Walking is not automatic and requires attention and brain processing to maintain balance and prevent falling over. Brain structure and function deteriorate with ageing and neurodegenerative disorders, in turn impacting both cognitive and motor functions.   This series of studies will investigate: How do age and/or disease- associated declines in cognitive functions affect balance control? How is this further impacted by psychological, physiological and medical factors (eg. fear, pain, medications)? How does the brain control these balance tasks?     Approach The experiments involve experimental paradigms that challenge cognitive functions of interest (eg.visuo-spatial working memory, inhibitory function). I use functional near-infrared spectroscopy to study activation in superficial cortical regions of interest (eg. prefrontal cortex, supplementary motor area…). The studies involve young and older people as well as clinical groups (eg.Parkinson’s disease).   Studies Cortical activity during stepping and gait adaptability tasks Effects of age, posture and task condition on cortical activity during reaction time tasks Influence of balance challenge and concern about falling on brain activity during walking Influence of lower limb pain/discomfort on brain activity during stepping   This research will greatly improve our understanding of the interactions between brain capacity, functions and balance control across ageing and diseases, psychological, physiological and medical factors, allows to identify targets for rehabilitation. It will also help identifying whether exercise-based interventions improve neural efficiency for enhanced balance control.
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