CSIRO’s goal is to understand what causes neurodegenerative diseases and develop strategies for their prevention, enabling older Australians to enjoy active and independent lives.
Neurodegenerative diseases and mental disorders
With life expectancies increasing around the world, populations are ageing and neurodegenerative diseases have become a global issue.
22 December 2008 | Updated 5 June 2012
Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease are the most common cause of dementia, thought to be responsible for up to 70 per cent of cases.
Alzheimer's is a progressive disease which can affect all areas of the brain, gradually causing memory loss and loss of abilities.
The risk of Alzheimer's disease increases with age. People aged in their sixties and above are the most likely to develop Alzheimer's disease, although it is possible for it to develop earlier.
In Australia the number of people diagnosed with dementia is projected to increase from 245 000 cases in 2009 to 1.13 million by 2050, most of which is caused by Alzheimer's disease.
Why is it important to study neurodegenerative diseases?
In Australia the number of people diagnosed with dementia is projected to increase from 245,000 cases in 2009 to 1.13 million by 2050, most of which is caused by Alzheimer's disease.
Currently the financial costs to Australia of this disabling disease are estimated to be in the region of A$5.4 billion per annum (Access Economics 2009).
Neurodegenerative disorders are the result of abnormalities in the transport, degradation and aggregation of particular types of proteins in the brain.
There are currently no known biomarkers or preventative strategies for neurodegenerative diseases. This provides much opportunity for ground-breaking research.
How is CSIRO addressing national challenges in neurodegenerative disease?
CSIRO's research is focused on prevention, susceptibility, early detection and diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases.
We aim to delay the onset of Alzheimer's and other Neurodegenerative diseases in Australia by five years by 2020 through early detection and prevention, including lifestyle changes.
Current focus areas include:
There is strong evidence for the role of A-Beta associated with Alzheimer's disease.
Opportunities for treatment and prevention are likely to come from approaches that modify this A-beta pathway and reduce the associated neurotoxicity.
The objectives of this research are to develop neuroprotective agents (goods, nutraceuticals, therapeutics) which inhibit inappropriate folding of the amyloid protein and the inflammatory cascade.
A key activity involves determining the structure of the A-beta protein structure in providing insights on the development of the disease and intervention using neuroprotective agents.
The A-beta protein structure has previously eluded researchers and the ability to define this structure will permit the development of more specific therapies and targeted imaging agents in addition to the capacity to develop antibody therapy.
Australian Imaging and Biomarkers and Lifestyle Flagship Study of Aging (AIBL)
CSIRO initiated the Australian Imaging, Biomarkers and Lifestyle Flagship Study of Ageing (AIBL) in 2006, and results to date have been extremely encouraging.
CSIRO's research highlights are:
identifying the three-dimensional structure of Amyloid Protein
identifying inhibitors to the formation of Amyloid Protein
developing the PiB PET scan and identified its usefulness
identifying pattern of Amyloid Protein’s location in the brain
initiating AIBL – the largest study of its kind in the world
potentially bringing forward the detection of Alzheimer’s disease by 18 months
involvement in key collaborations with Alzheimer’s Australia, ADNI and Harvard University
designing a platform for handling vast amount of imaging, gene
Collaborating with Alzheimer’s Australia and Penguin to start development of a new book to provide advice on general lifestyle areas like diet and exercise to improve health.
Listen to the podcast: When forgetfulness becomes a disease (Podcast 19 Jan 10)..