The Queensland Brain Institute today opened the first joint neuroscience research laboratory between Australia and China.
The opening of the laboratory – which will be dedicated to researching brain disorders such as dementia, depression and schizophrenia – is especially relevant, as today marks the end of Dementia Awareness Week.
Dementia currently affects 250,000 people living in Australia, however this figure is expected to rise to 1.3 million Australians and 60 million Chinese by the year 2050.
The new facility is a joint project with the Institute of Biophysics (IBP), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), based in Beijing.
QBI Director Professor Perry Bartlett said the joint laboratory would build on the two Institutes’ complementary skills, which would more rapidly provide answers to how we can overcome disorders of the brain by improving the function of nerve cells.
“There are currently no fully effective treatments for neurological brain disorders, and we believe new discoveries in this area will revolutionise treatment over the next decade.”
CAS Vice President Professor Li Jinghai attended the opening. He said IBP would unveil a complementary laboratory in November.
“The joint laboratory between QBI and the CAS Institute of Biophysics is a unique venture with the potential to develop treatment for debilitating brain disorders,” Member for Bulimba Di Farmer said.
“The first project has commenced and involves the study of how learning and memory works in fruit flies because they provide the best opportunity to rapidly identify the genes regulating this process.
“This will be followed by studies in mice, to determine how loss of learning ability can be reversed in the ageing animal by stimulating the production of new nerve cells. Finally, studies in humans are using the advanced imaging techniques available at QBI and IBP to identify functional changes that occur during learning and memory and in disease.”
Professor Bartlett explained: “Our project aims to identify the genes regulating learning and memory in fruit flies within three years.
“Understanding how the brain works is the first step in eventually producing appropriate therapeutic drugs for dementia, depression, schizophrenia and other disorders,” he said.
Professor Perry Bartlett is internationally renowned in the field of cellular and molecular neuroscience, a fact highlighted by his election as a Fellow of the Australian Academy and the awarding of a prestigious Australian Research Council Federation Fellowship in 2003. In 2002 he was appointed Foundation Chair in Molecular Neuroscience at The University of Queensland and the inaugural Director of the Queensland Brain Institute in 2003.