Diseases affecting the brain, such as Alzheimer’s disease, tumours, stroke, epilepsy, and hydrocephalus, cause enormous suffering and loss of life in our community.
Sydney Medical School Foundation, through sponsoring vital research in this field, is leading the way in providing solutions to many of these conditions.
Alzheimer's disease: Professor Jürgen Götz (2005-2009)
Professor Jürgen Götz and his research team aim to understand what causes the formation of insoluble protein deposits and neuronal cell death in Alzheimer's patients.
The brains of Alzheimer's disease patients are characterised by nerve cell loss, synapse loss, and the presence of insoluble protein deposits (plaques and tangles) which are a major focus of Alzheimer's research.
As the agents which cause this disease are likely to be shared by a whole range of neurodegenerative disorders, potential drugs targeting plagues or tangles might benefit a broader spectrum of disorders such as Parkinson's disease.
Professor Götz's research will assist in the development of safe treatment strategies of Alzheimer's disease and related disorders.
Prion disease: Professor Simon Hawke (2005-2009)
Sydney Medical School Foundation Jessie Alberti Program Grant to Professor Simon Hawke focused on neurodegenerative diseases which are caused by disordered folding of brain proteins (prion disease). In these diseases, prion protein transforms into a form which causes cells to malfunction and die. A similar process occurs in Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer's disease: Professor Jillian Kril
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting more than 162,000 people over the age of 65 in Australia.
An important part of understanding what happens in the brain of Alzheimer's disease patients, comes from studying changes that occur in the brain during normal ageing. The Medical Foundation Program Grant to Associate Professor Jillian Kril, supported an important study which examined the hippocampus in patients with Alzheimer's disease to determine why neurons in this region die.
Additional grants from the Foundation have enabled Professor Kril to further her research in understanding the underlying cause of the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, and how it is differentiated from the clinically similar Dementia with Lewy Bodies (abnormal collections of protein which form inside nerve cells of the brain).
Dementia syndromes: Dr Andrew Duggins (2008)
With the support of Sydney Medical School Foundation, the Westmead Cognitive Clinic has been trying to determine how well the Addenbrooke's Cognitive Examination Revised (ACER), is able to predict dementia or predict a correct dementia diagnosis, if tailored for the Australian population.
Unfortunately, no such testing protocol exists in Australia and if the ACER study proves robust, clinicians will finally have an evidence basis for the application of new research from overseas for the benefit of their Australian patients.
The study has gathered together information on more than 480 subjects and analysis is well underway.
Hydrocephalus: Associate Professor Ian Johnston (1998-2001)
Sydney Medical School Foundation Wood Grant supported the investigation and treatment of hydrocephalus in children using advanced techniques available in Australia, and the development, in collaboration with the neuroradiology department in Cambridge, of a new technique for the treatment of pseudotumour cerebri.