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Race Against Dementia fuels new Australian research

[1]Racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart OBE’s Race Against Dementia charity and the Dementia Australia Research Foundation have today announced the inaugural recipients of the ‘Race Against Dementia – Dementia Australia Research Foundation Post-doctoral Fellowship’ programme.

Dr Adekunle Bademosi from The University of Queensland and Dr Andrew McKinnon from The University of Sydney will each receive an award valued at $405,000 AUD in total, over three years, which will cover salary and project expenses.

Dr Bademosi’s research will explore how and why frontotemporal dementia begins by using advanced imaging tools that have resolutions up to ten million times that of a standard digital camera. The results obtained will help scientists to produce drugs that target frontotemporal dementia.

Dr McKinnon’s research will comprehensively characterise sleep problems in older adults with early dementia or those at risk for dementia. This will include developing tools for clinicians to guide strategies for dementia management and prevention for individual patients.

Sir Jackie, an Honorary International Dementia Australia Ambassador, said he was delighted to announce the recipients in partnership with the Dementia Australia Research Foundation, as a demonstration of Race Against Dementia’s global commitment to funding early-career dementia researchers.

“Congratulations to Dr Bademosi and Dr McKinnon on being chosen from more than 40 high quality applications. Race Against Dementia is building an international team of dementia scientists, who not only have their research funded, but also benefit from developmental opportunities, inspired by best practice in Formula 1 technology from both McLaren F1 and Red Bull Racing as well as other high tech commercial enterprises. My wife, Helen, was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia in 2014, and ever since then I have devoted my efforts globally to raise funds and stimulate breakthroughs and innovations in dementia research. I hope this award assists the recipients, and the research community more broadly, to apply a ‘Formula 1 attitude’ to work faster and smarter and continue to make breakthroughs in the prevention and treatment of dementia.” Sir Jackie Stewart


Click here to find out about the funded projects
Lead Investigator Project Title Institution
Dr Adekunle Bademosi

 

Understanding the dynamics of TDP-43 aggregation in FTD using advanced imaging tools The University of Queensland
Dr Andrew McKinnon Delineating relationships between sleep-wake disturbances, brain changes, dementia risk factors and the accumulation of dementia pathology The University of Sydney

* Each Post-doctoral Fellowship is valued at $405,000 over 3 years. Funding commences in 2021.

Project Summaries

Dr Adekunle Bademosi, The University of Queensland

Understanding the dynamics of TDP-43 aggregation in FTD using advanced imaging tools

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is associated with progressive damage to the aspects of the human brain involved in the control of movement, problem solving, memory, social behaviour and other vital functions. Post-mortem sampling of the brains of FTD patients revealed the presence of large clumps of proteins, which are toxic and damaging to the brain. The brain is made up of billions of cells called neurons; these protein clumps were shown to build up within some of these neurons. Even though FTD can affect anybody, researchers are yet to identify why these proteins begin to cluster. Further, each neuron has intrinsic protective mechanisms that are normally responsible for clearing up these protein clumps. However, in FTD these protective mechanisms fail. In an attempt to understand how and why FTD begins, this project will use very recently developed advanced imaging tools that have resolutions up to ten million times that of a standard digital camera. This project will utilise these tools to visualise these proteins before, during and after their accumulation within neurons derived from laboratory animals that have been experimentally induced to mimic FTD conditions. The results obtained will help scientists to produce drugs that target FTD.

Dr Andrew McKinnon, The University of Sydney

Delineating relationships between sleep-wake disturbances, brain changes, dementia risk factors and the accumulation of dementia pathology

Dementia is the leading cause of disability in persons over the age of 65 in Australia, with Alzheimer’s disease alone accounting for more than 40% of all dementia cases. By addressing risk factors for developing dementia including hypertension, depression, and physical inactivity, one-third of Alzheimer’s disease cases and up to 40% of all dementia cases may be preventable. Sleep disturbances including poor sleep quality, and shorter sleep duration, as well as sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea are present in up to 60% of older adults over the age of 60, and in up to 70% of those with dementia. These types of sleep problems are emerging as another significant yet modifiable (for example, through treatment with melatonin or CPAP devices) risk factor for dementia. However, to date, how these sleep problems relate over time to brain and cognition changes, underlying dementia processes, and other risk factors has not been thoroughly investigated. We will address this gap through comprehensively characterising sleep problems in older adults with early dementia or at risk for dementia. Furthermore, we will develop tools that will provide personalised risk profile reports that can be implemented by clinicians to guide strategies for dementia management and prevention for individual patients.

The Chair of the Dementia Australia Research Foundation, Professor Graeme Samuel AC, congratulated the recipients for their commitment to dementia research.

“With dementia affecting almost 50 million people worldwide and someone in the world developing dementia every three seconds, research into dementia is now more urgent than ever. We are delighted to launch this joint fellowship with Race Against Dementia, powered by Sir Jackie’s vision and commitment to dementia research. These fellowships form part of the Dementia Australia Research Foundation’s 2020 grant round, with more than $1.7 million in funding on offer for early-career researchers. This is an incredibly valuable initiative, and we are excited to be joining Race Against Dementia’s international network of early-career researchers. I look forward to seeing the outcomes of the research.” Professor Graeme Samuel

The Post-doctoral Fellowships in Australia will become the third major Race Against Dementia fellowship programme alongside Alzheimer’s Research UK and The Mayo Clinic, USA.