Sleep study and new drug treatment awarded Innovation Grants

Research projects that will test how acoustic sleep technology and a new drug treatment can help reduce toxins associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease will share $750,000 in funding from the Dementia Australia Research Foundation.

Associate Professor Clare Anderson from Monash University and Professor Michael Parker from St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research were both awarded a Faye Williams Innovation Grant, each worth $375,000.

In an Australian first, Associate Professor Anderson’s team at Monash University’s Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health will use cutting edge acoustic stimulation technology to stimulate slow wave sleep in research participants, providing a breakthrough in our understanding of the role of sleep in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Slow wave sleep, which is a very deep state of sleep, is thought to be very important for memory consolidation, as well as clearing out toxins in the brain that are associated with cognitive decline,” Associate Professor Anderson said.

“Our facility enables us to take blood samples from participants without interrupting their sleep so we will be able to measure how much toxin is cleared from the brain during slow wave sleep.

“We hope this study will inform future interventions for sleep and cognitive health that reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease including public health messaging promoting the importance of sleep as we age and the development of slow wave enhancement sleep therapeutics.”

Professor Parker and his team will test a new drug that may help enhance the brain’s ability to clear the toxins associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

“The brain naturally has cells that act as garbage collectors by removing the toxins that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. We have some very promising preliminary results that indicate that the new drug we are developing can enhance this process without the negative consequences that have plagued drug trials,” Professor Parker said

Professor Parker said the grant would enable the testing of the new drug in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease.

“This is very exciting, because if we can successfully enhance the brain’s ability to clear these toxins, we delay, and even potentially reverse, some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease,” Professor Parker said.

The Chair of the Dementia Australia Research Foundation, Professor Graeme Samuel AC, said the grants provided a valuable opportunity for researchers to test novel ideas and new interventions in the field of dementia.

“These Innovation Grants provide vital insights into reducing dementia risk and establishing treatment options for people who live with, or are at risk of developing dementia,” he said.

“Without a medical breakthrough, the number of people living with dementia is expected to increase to almost 1.1 million by 2058. Innovation in dementia research is now more urgent than ever.”

The Dementia Australia Research Foundation acknowledges Faye Williams, whose generous donation funded these research grants.

Grant details are available here.

The Dementia Australia Research Foundation is the research arm of Dementia Australia, which provides funding to support new and emerging dementia researchers. In 2021, over $5 million in funding was allocated to support Project and Pilot Grants, Post-doctoral and Mid-career Research Fellowships and Innovation Grants. Details of funding opportunities are available at dementia.org.au/research/grants.

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