Regenerative Neuroscience Group
Head of laboratory
The Regenerative Neuroscience Group was established at the Brain and Mind Research Institute in March, 2012 to further our understanding of the competing forces of neuroplasticity and degeneration in the ageing brain and harnessing this knowledge to better prevent and treat dementia.
Dementia affects 26 million people world-wide, including 230,000 Australians, and this is estimated to quadruple by 2050. The main factor contributing to the rising incidence of dementia is the ageing of modern society. The fastest growing age group in Australia is 80-year olds, and for every five years after turning 65 years, the risk for dementia doubles.
If we do not develop measures to prevent or treat dementia, it will overtake cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death in Australia by the 2030s, and by 2060 we will need to spend as much on dementia-related care as the entire current health budget.
Current projects include work with adult stem cells, animal models, brain tissue, human clinical trials and large multinational population-based samples. Associate Professor Valenzuela has a particular interest in new brain imaging technologies such as Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy and PET imaging to help bridge the translational gap between animal studies and human health.
We are currently working on 16 research projects aimed at increasing public awareness about modifiable risk factors for dementia, developing better dementia prevention strategies, and identifying new therapeutic approaches to the treatment and prevention of dementia. The program has four main research themes:
- cognitive lifestyle
- brain imaging
- stem cells
- canine brain
Dementia is a complex disease and we believe cross-disiplinary research is key to further progress. Researchers in the Regenerative Neuroscience Group collaborate with leading scientists from around the world.
Our brain changes in response to stimulatory experiences such as behaviour, environment and neural processes. One of our key research interests is investigating the ways neuroplasticity can be leveraged to delay the onset and reduce the severity of dementia.
By the time a person has been diagnosed with dementia there has already been a significant loss of brain cells and the connections between them, called synapses. Our research is investigating way to replace the lost brain cells and rebuild the synapses using neural stem cell therapy.
Neural stem cells can self-replicate almost continuously (in a petri dish) and then under different conditions mature into a diverse range of brain cells. Researchers in the Regenrative Neuroscience Group have developed a method of generating neural stem-like cells from adult skin. We are currently at the pre-clinical stage of testing this in animals. If successful, we then plan to carry out human clinical trials.
RNG is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia as well as generously supported by a several private philanthropic organisations.
For more information, please visit rng.org.au