New national collaboration to advance Alzheimer’s research

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Story contributed by Andrea Lewis 

A multi-faceted national partnership will see the Macquarie University Health Sciences Centre contribute its advanced technologies and research expertise to diagnostic and treatment innovations for Alzheimer’s disease.

Macquarie University Health Sciences Centre, a faculty linked to Macquarie University Hospital, is in the process of signing formal agreements with McCusker Alzheimer’s Research Foundation and the KaRa Institute of Neurological Diseases.

The partnership aims to advance diagnostic and treatment approaches to Alzheimer’s disease.

Led by Professor Ralph Martins, the McCusker Alzheimer’s Research Foundation’s research program aims to diagnose Alzheimer’s before symptoms are detected.

The program is unique in traversing both clinical and laboratory-based research to facilitate the translation of research findings into proven diagnostics, therapies and preventative interventions for people with Alzheimer’s.

Widely respected as one of the leading international researchers in Alzheimer’s research, Professor Martins has been working in the field for more than 30 years.

His work has led to a number of ground-breaking discoveries. He contributed to the discovery of beta-amyloid and its parent protein, the amyloid precursor protein (APP). The APP is an important protein found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients and is now universally acknowledged as being fundamental to the pathology of the disease.

“Our collaboration with Macquarie University will give us access to technology unavailable elsewhere in Australia,” Professor Martins said.

“For one, the superior imaging capabilities at Macquarie Medical Imaging (MMI) will enable us to conduct our brain scanning work more efficiently and effectively.

“MMI has state-of-the-art imaging equipment and ready access to brain amyloid imaging agents, which make it possible to scan multiple patients in a day.”

Macquarie University will also share its research expertise – particularly in proteomics, an area in which the University is a national leader. Researchers will look at using proteomics to further diagnostic ability, based on achieving a better understanding of the proteins relevant to Alzheimer’s disease.

The executive dean of Macquarie’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Professor Patrick McNeil, said Professor Martins would strengthen the faculty’s programs.

“The involvement of Professor Martins will boost the faculty’s neurosciences research programs which have already been an area of research strength, evidenced by our highly integrated Motor Neurone Disease clinical and research program, and the award of a $6.7 million NHMRC Dementia Research Team Grant in 2015,” Professor McNeil said.

Professor Martins has also established the KaRa Institute of Neurological Diseases (KaRa Minds) in partnership with Honorary Associate Professor Kathryn Goozee.

KaRa Minds facilitates clinical trials in Alzheimer’s disease through its role in recruiting cohorts from the east coast of Australia for large national and international clinical trials.

KaRa Minds will help to recruit 300 people needed for a current study which is testing the role of a combination of Testosterone and DHA, or Omega 3, to reduce brain levels of the toxic beta-amyloid protein.

The trial is looking for men over the age of 60 with memory complaints, mild cognitive complaints or Alzheimer’s disease.

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