Karissa Barthelson

Race Against Dementia – Dementia Australia Research Foundation Post-doctoral Fellowship
In Progress
Project Snapshot

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) has been researched for over a century. To date, the complexity of this disease has been difficult to completely capture in animal models. Consequently, treatments originally developed in animals are not particularly effective in all AD cases. To discover alternative AD therapies, a different approach is required.

Dementia is not only a disease of the elderly. 1 in 2,800 Australian babies will develop childhood-onset dementia. This is a significant burden, yet the existence of childhood dementia is not nearly as recognised as AD. Unlike AD, the genetic bases of the childhood dementias are very well defined, and reliably representative animal models exist. There is a large degree of overlap in the brain and behavioural changes between AD and the childhood dementias. Therefore, the possibility arises that the disease- associated mechanisms in the childhood dementias are similar to those in AD.

This study will assess molecular-level similarities between the pathologies of AD and one of the more common forms of childhood dementia, Sanfilippo syndrome. I will study whether treatments targeting these shared pathologies are therapeutic in both conditions. My research program analysing parallel responses between AD and Sanfilippo models should reveal innovative solutions to both dementia types.

Where are they now?

At the time of award, Karissa was a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the Childhood Dementia Research Group at the College of Medicine and Public Health, Flinders Health & Medical Research Institute (Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia).