Professor Clive Harper recognised for work preventing brain damage in alcoholics
4 December 2006
The University's Professor Clive Harper has been awarded the prestigious RPA Foundation Medal for research into the link between thiamine and the prevention of alcohol-induced brain damage.
Research conducted by Professor Harper and his colleagues led to Australian bread being supplemented with thiamine (B1). As a result, Australia has seen a dramatic reduction in the prevalence of Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome - a devastating alcohol-related brain disease.
Professor Harper's team at the Department of Neuropathology at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, using tissues from the Hospital and University of Sydney's "brain bank", are now identifying the precise mechanism by which alcohol impacts on the brain.
"Previous studies have shown that the white matter or 'hard wiring' of the brain can shrink by up to 15 per cent in alcoholics," said Professor Harper.
"We are now studying the protein make-up of the brain to establish mechanisms by which damage occurs and how we might be able to reverse these processes.
"Early indications are that it might be the side-effects of alcoholism - liver damage and nutritional deficiencies, in particular thiamine deficiency - which cause some of the damage to the brain - not the alcohol itself."
Professor Harper encourages people to take part in donor programs such as Using our Brains and Gift of Hope.
Those wishing to register for donating tissue can do so so online atBrain Donors website.
Contact: Kath Kenny
Phone: 02 9351 2261 or 0434 606 100