Neurodegeneration is the process by which a part of your brain dies as a result of trauma or disease.
There are several well-known diseases where neurodegeneration occurs, including Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, in which your memory and ability to think are affected, and Parkinson’s disease and related disorders, in which your ability to move is affected.
At present, we don’t know how to prevent or cure neurodegenerative diseases, and our ability to treat them is limited. In most cases, we don’t know what causes these diseases.
Neurodegenerative disorders impact severely on your quality of life, as well as that of your family. The financial cost of these disorders – both to those affected by the disease and the Australian health system – is significant.
At Neuroscience Research Australia, we are identifying the causes of these disorders and are working towards developing better diagnostic methods and improved treatments. As part of this research, we are also examining what happens to the brain as we age.
My main research focus is to gain a better understanding of the genetic and environmental factors involved in ageing and age-related disease. The genetic factors that may be involved include variation at the nucleotide level, epigenetic variation, epistasis and gene-environmental interactions. Current research is being undertaken using large population cohorts of older Australians and examining the genetic variation and environmental factors associated with ageing phenotypes.
Ittner Group - Professor Lars Ittner Our research program is focused on two major neurodegenerative disease complexes - Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Frontotemporal dementia (FTD)/Motor Neuron Disease (MND). Alzheimer's disease is the most prevalent of all neurodegenerative disorders, characterized by a progressive loss of cognition. Frontotemporal dementia is the second most prevalent form of dementia. Motor neuron disease (also known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease) is characterized by rapid degeneration of motor neurons and shares molecular and clinical features with Frontotemporal dementia. More than 200,000 Australians are currently diagnosed with a neurodegenerative condition, causing a huge socio-economic impact. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative conditions and current therapies achieve only very modest symptomatic relief. Understanding how brain function progressively declines and neurons eventually die is the main objective of our research program. This is the paramount first step to develop new therapeutic approaches and drugs.
Our Aboriginal Health & Ageing Research Group examines the role of early-life brain growth, late-life brain decline, risk and behavioural factors and social determinants: in Indigenous and non-Indigenous ageing; in lifespan; and in the epidemiology of cognitive, behavioural and somatic (body) disorders of ageing.
Our genes play an important role in whether we develop neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. Our research aims are to identify causative and susceptibility neurodegenerative genes and furthermore, to understand the mechanisms by which genetic alterations in these genes can lead to disease.