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An exciting project funded by the Dementia Australia Research Foundation, in conjunction with the Yulgilbar Alzheimer’s Research Program, will use nanotechnology to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and improve drug delivery.
A $1 million Innovation Grant has been awarded to a research team led by Professor Perminder Sachdev AM, Scientia Professor of Neuropsychiatry at the University of New South Wales in Sydney and co-director of the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing.
Nanotechnology is a science based on manipulating matter at a tiny scale, even smaller than a breadcrumb.
In this project, nanoparticles with special ‘super magnetic’ properties will be used as imaging agents. This will allow earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease through imaging scans such as MRI and the newly emerging magnetic particle imaging or MPI.
Nanoparticles will also be used to move across the blood-brain barrier to target dementia-specific molecules in the brain. The blood-brain barrier is nature’s way of stopping bacteria, toxins and other harmful substances from entering the brain. It is a great inbuilt security system but unfortunately, in the case of Alzheimer’s disease, it can also stop drugs from getting to where they’re needed most – the brain.
Because nanoparticles have the ability to cross this protective barrier, Professor Sachdev and his team intend to harness them as a drug-delivery system so that novel therapeutic agents can be delivered directly to affected sites in the brain. Essentially, the drugs will be piggybacked onto the nanoparticles.
In the first instance, the work will be carried out using animal models.
“The Innovation Grant has enabled us to take this work from the level of the cell to animal models of disease with the expectation that this will lead to trials in humans,” Professor Sachdev said.
“We are extremely grateful to the funding bodies for the trust they have placed in our research.”