Dementia is a curse for both individual patients and their families. People with dementia naturally find the onset deeply upsetting, but the decline is equally traumatic for all those who love and care for them.
Together the University of Sydney and the Bluesand Foundation are trying to find a cure to this debilitating disease.
Sivaraman Purushothuman, 2010–2012 recipient of the Medical Foundation/Bluesand Foundation Scholarship for Alzheimer’s Disease Research.
Peter Cox’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease inspired his family to expand their support of University of Sydney research through the Bluesand Foundation. The family established the foundation in 2005, and its links with the University have always been strong through Peter, a Sydney alumnus (BEc 1954) and regular supporter of the University’s endeavours.
When the opportunity arose to make a more significant commitment to the University, the Cox family agreed to direct their support to the field of Alzheimer’s research, in respect of Peter’s struggle with this debilitating disease.
“To watch Peter’s illness progress was very hard,” says his widow, Thelma Cox. “But it made us all the more determined to do something meaningful to help researchers understand better what is going on, and from there to find effective treatments and a cure.”
Through the Bluesand Foundation, the Cox family decided to contribute to the Concord Health and Ageing in Men Project (CHAMP), based at the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health.
CHAMP is a population-based longitudinal epidemiological study of more than 1700 men aged 70 years or older. It looks at incidents of dementia, osteoporosis, urinary problems, muscle strength, and prostate- specific antigens, an indicator of prostate cancer. The aim is to follow participants for at least five years, detail changes in their health, and identify factors that increase the risk of poor health outcomes such as the onset of dementia, frailty, nursing home admission and death.
Professor Bob Cumming leads the team of investigators. “In 2011 we published 11 papers based on CHAMP data,” he explains. “In one of these papers we described our finding that higher blood testosterone levels are associated with better health. In another we showed that men who walk faster are at lower risk of death in the next two years. We are currently working on a paper showing that dementia and mild cognitive impairment (a precursor of dementia) are by far the most important predictors of nursing home admission.”
The Bluesand Foundation has supported two scholarships for Alzheimer’s research, the most recent being awarded to Sivaraman (‘Siva’) Purushothuman for his project: ‘Impact of neuroprotectants on the neuropathology of cerebral degeneration in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases’.
Siva has now completed the second year of this three-year scholarship and, in addition to writing annual progress reports, has also attended a meeting of the Bluesand Foundation to present his work to the Cox family and foundation treasurer, Mr Peter Egliston.
“Undoubtedly dementia is a very complex field,” said Mr Egliston, “but Siva explained it to us in a very clear and comprehensible way. It was really pleasing to see how the funds are being put to such good use.”
Micrograph of the Year Competition
A cluster of plaques (marked by labelling of Ab, green) along a cerebral capillary, which branches near the middle of the image. Astrocytes (labelled red) form a glia limitans on the vessel, and also surround each plaque. Image taken on the Bosch Institute Zeiss Apotome Deconvolution Microscope; 20x objective.
Mr Sivaraman (Siva) Purushothuman, the current recipient of the Bluesand Foundation Scholarship for Alzheimer’s Disease Research, has won another honour at the University.
Each year the Bosch Institute Advanced Microscopy Facility hosts the Micrograph of the Year Competition. This competition is open to all Bosch members and registered users of the facility. Siva’s micrograph (pictured) won the first prize in the Molecular Probes category for 2011.