Joint QBI-US team targets faster Alzheimers detection

21 May 2007

Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) researchers are among members of an international team to receive a $1.6m grant to improve early detection of Alzheimer’s disease.

A group of UQ scientists, including QBI’s Dr Elizabeth Coulson, will work with colleagues at the Medical University of South Carolina to develop urgently needed methods for early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

The disease is a form of dementia in which areas of the temporal lobe that control memory are initially and particularly affected, and accounts for 50 to 70 per cent of all dementia cases.

In Australia, the at-risk population includes people aged 65 years and over, or about 13 per cent of the population. By 2051 this at-risk population could include a many as 12 million people.

Yesterday, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said $808,000 would be allocated from the National and International Research Alliances Program to support the three-year project.

QBI Deputy Director Professor Pankaj Sah said the funding announcement was a tremendous endorsement of Dr Coulson’s recent work with Amyloid beta, a neuro-toxin that is closely associated with neuronal cell death.

"Dr Coulson recently discovered that Amyloid beta – the major component of amyloid plaques found in patients with Alzheimer's – kills brain cells by acting on a receptor that is present on specific populations of nerve cells in the basal forebrain,” Professor Sah said.

“It's hoped that discoveries such as this will lead to the identification of other bio-markers which might indicate early signs of Alzheimer’s and also provide the tools to follow its progress over time.”

Dr Coulson will be working with Professor Ian Brereton from UQ’s Centre for Magnetic Resonance to develop Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease.

The new method will be non-invasive and will enable early diagnosis as well as safer monitoring of progression of the illness.

The biomarkers would also be used to assess the efficacy of new and emerging drugs that aim to delay or arrest the advance of Alzheimer’s disease.

Other members of the research team include Professor Maree Smith of UQ’s Centre for Integrated Preclinical Drug Development/TetraQ and the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, as well as the Neuroscience Institute of the Medical University of South Carolina.

QBI signed a collaboration agreement with Neuroscience Institute of the Medical University of South Carolina in May 2007 and the “sister states” of Queensland and South Carolina have a biotechnology alliance.


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Notes to the Editor
The Queensland Brain Institute was formed in 2003 as part of the Queensland Government’s Smart State Initiative, building on a long history of neuroscience at The University of Queensland. QBI is dedicated to understanding the molecular basis of brain function and applying this knowledge to the development of new therapeutics to treat brain and mental health disorders.