Listen to the fortnightly Dementia News podcast with Dr Ian McDonald chatting with some of the leading dementia researchers in Australia and around the globe. The short and sharp podcasts give you a bit more insight into the world of dementia research.

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Since the late 1990’s the Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation has been funding Australia’s talented new and early career dementia researchers, with the aim of giving these researchers a head start in building their careers. Giving out just over $10 million dollars’ worth of research grants to over 200 researchers during this time - science holds the key to defeating dementia, so the research we fund is focused on the causes, care, prevention and potential treatments for dementia. In this special podcast, I am taking a closer look at who we have funded over the past 15-20 years. Meet Lesley, Matthew, Michelle C, Zoe, Tim and Michelle K who are all passionate researchers working towards a world without dementia. In this episode we will learn that dementia research is more than just about finding a cure, it is about answering questions today which will help people living with dementia tomorrow. Listen as they share their stories, inspire and tell us how we can work towards a world without dementia.

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What is the role of the immune system in the development and progression of dementia? An interesting question which many researchers are trying to figure out. In this episode I am chatting with Myles Minter, an Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation funded PhD Candidate based at the University of Melbourne Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics. Myles was awarded a Ph.D scholarship in 2011 and is about to complete and submit his thesis for submission. Myles is a part of a lab which focuses on neuro-inflammation, an aspect common to people with Alzheimer’s disease but not yet targeted therapeutically (that is we don’t know how to stop it). Through his research Myles has identified a critical regulator of this neuro-inflammation termed type-1 interferons and is investigating how they contribute to Alzheimer’s disease progression. We chat to Myles about his research and to tell us to explain what it all means for a person living with dementia.

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The First World Health Organisation Ministerial Conference on Global Action Against Dementia took place on the 16-17 March 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland. The conference saw over 400 global political leaders, government officials, consumer representatives and researchers convene to discuss how we fight dementia in the future. One of those who attended was Professor Chris Baggoley, the Chief Medical Officer for the Australian Government and also the principal medical adviser to the Minister and the Department of Health. Professor Baggoley attended, spoke and represented Australia in Geneva at the global conference on dementia and today I am chatting with him to get some more insights into some of the ‘calls to action’ that were created as part of the report which came out of the conference and why he is passionate about finding a cure for dementia.

To find out more about the 'call to action' document created as part of this conference click here.

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How does your background, culture and ethnicity influence dementia care practices? In this episode I am chatting with Dr Bianca Brijanth who was awarded a 2007 Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation PhD scholarship to look into this very subject. Her project was called ‘Age, invisibility and madness: Understanding dementia care in India’ and she has recently published her findings as a book titled 'Unforgotten - Love and the Culture of Dementia Care in India.' I chat to Bianca more about how culture influences dementia care and what key outcomes she has found from her studies. Bianca is now a Senior Research Fellow at the Monash University and continuing to do work in the field.

You can find out more about Bianca's book via this website here.

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How does cognitive reserve relate to particular concerns in older adults who are at-risk of Alzheimer’s disease? This is one of the key research questions today’s Dr Rachel Buckley one of the 2014 Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation 2014 grant recipients is trying to figure out. Dr Buckley is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, University of Melbourne and she predicts that in healthy older individuals who have a higher cognitive reserve, there will be a stronger relationship between beta-amyloid and memory concerns. Results from her study will aid in our ability to identify at risk older adults who will benefit most from Alzheimer’s disease treatment trials. In this epsiode we ask Dr Buckley to give her insights into what 'cognitive reserve' means and how knowing more about it will actually help shape the way we diagnose dementia into the future.

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Could we one day be able to screen for Alzheimer's disease through a simple blood test as we do for Cholestrol? In this episode of the Dementia News podcast I chat with Dr Dominic Hare and Dr Blaine Roberts who definitely think so. Dr Hare is an analytical chemist and Chancellors Postdoctoral Fellow of the University of Technology, Sydney who also spends much of his time at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health. He has a particular interest in the role iron plays in both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and is now applying cutting-edge analytical technology to study how iron moves around the brain as we grow old. Dr Roberts is a protein chemist and neuroscientist. He is the Head of the Metalloproteomics Laboratory and Director of the Neuroproteomics facility at the Florey Institute, which he co-founded with Dr. Hare. His research focuses primarily on the study of metals in neurodegenerative diseases. He has particular interest in the root causes of neurodegeneration and how metals play in integral role in the disease process. So Dominic and Blaire are among a team of Australian researchers who are working on screening the blood for markers which could indicate Alzheimer's disease, however in a twist on the blood test research we hear about often, they are specificially analysing the blood for metals (such as iron and copper). It is an extremely interesting approach and listen to this great podcast to find out more.

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On January 29, Still Alice was released in Australian cinemas, a movie based on fictional character Alice Howland from her dementia diagnosis through to onset of symptoms. Throughout the movie Alice slowly but inevitably loses memory and connection with reality. She gradually loses the ability to follow a conversational thread, the story line of a book, or to recall information she heard just moments before. All common dementia symptoms. Many film critics are raving about Julianne Moore’s portrayal of Alice, and she has already won a Golden Globe award for best actress and is number 1 pick to win a prestigious Oscar. So what do others think of the movie, particularly those who are close to the cause and is the movie sending the right messages about ‘what is dementia?’ While the overall view of the movie is positive, some critics do say the film is overly “pristine” and “shies away from taking risks”, while also not being plausibly representative of the typical experience of dementia in choosing to focus on an “almost perfect … privileged family.” Others ask if it focuses enough on the latter stages, along with the impact placed on families and carers. In this special extended episode of the Dementia News I am pleased to have joining with me, three expert panellists, Dr Siobhan O'Dwyer (Griffith University), Dr Andrew Watt (Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health) and Jill Brown (Alzheimer's Australia ACT), to give their views of the movie and discuss just how close to real life it is.

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Towards the end of last year a news story caught my attention which stated that robots might be able to help people with dementia. Naturally I had to investigate and the headline was regarding a new research project which is currently being funded in Australia to look into whether robotic type devices could be used to prompt people with dementia to remember certain words, memories and daily activities. This research is a part of a new Australian Research Council Funded centre called the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language and one of the centres members. In this episode I am chatting with Professor Helen Chenery from Bond University who is leading this research which might help improve the lives of those with dementia. Professor Chenery has been working in the field of Dementia Care research over many years and to view the communication videos Professor Chenery was talking about in this podcast visit - https://www.youtube.com/user/UQDementiaCare

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A large trial is currently underway in Australia and USA involving around 19,000 elderly participants investigating whether a daily aspirin can prolong a healthy lifespan, through the prevention of thing such as heart attack, stroke, cognitive decline, physical decline and some cancers. Known as the ASPREE study, which stands for (Aspirin Reducing Events in the Elderly) it is one of the most important high-quality, large-scale cohort studies that will provide a large evidence base on the effects of long term aspirin use. While this study is aiming to answer many questions and theories, one of the major research questions which has recently received some media attention is can regular aspirin use delay the onset of dementia? In this episode I am pleased to be chatting with one of the Australian project leaders – Professor John McNeill from Monash University who is involved in answering this question.

You can find out more about ASPREE here.

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Dr Dennis Gillings was earlier this year appointed as World Dementia Envoy by the British Prime Minister David Cameron, on behalf of the G7. His major role is to take lead on a global task force that focuses on facilitating research, developing dementia friendly communities and awareness initiatives, and improving health and social care systems. He is the chair of the World Dementia Council who have recently set five major priority areas to overcome what is now known as 'the global dementia challenge,' which includes the goal of finding a cure or disease modifiying therapy for dementia by 2025. Dr Gillings has personal experience with dementia, as his mother lived with the condition for 18 years until her death in 2013. Having seen first-hand the devastating effects of the condition and lack of effective treatment, he is passionate about harnessing innovation in care; bringing together ideas from around the world to try to prevent the condition and improve the lives of those living with dementia the condition. Dr Gillings was recently in Australia meeting with federal government ministers, researchers and staff and consumers for Alzheimer's Australia and kindly gave up some of his time for the Dementia News podcast. Listen as he explains his role further and talks about the goal of finding a cure by 2025.

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