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Novel imaging diagnostics for Alzheimer’s Disease

Case study from: Collaborating with India on science and research

Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disease caused by nerve cell death. It results in shrinkage of the brain. Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that affects a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks, including their thinking and behaviour. The condition is a significant health issue for those diagnosed. It also impacts the family and friends of those with the condition. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Some medications and other life changes can help to relief the symptoms and improve quality of life.  

Australia-India Strategic Research Fund

Professor Ashley Bush co-led a joint team that researched novel imaging diagnostics for Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers from the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health partnered with:

  • Melbourne Health
  • The University of Melbourne and
  • National Brain Research Centre in India.

The Australian project team received almost $1 million from the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund.

The project drew on the strengths of partner institutes.

The National Brain Research Centre had expertise in magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS). MRS is a specialised magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique. MRS is useful for investigating biochemical alterations within tissues. It is a non-invasive ‘window’ for viewing biochemical processes.

The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health had expertise in quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM). QSM is a novel MRI mechanism with an advantage in visualising brain structures. QSM can assess notable tissue functions and disease. QSM is an enhanced MRI technique requiring sophisticated post-processing. The result is quantitative maps of tissues susceptible to disease.

This project developed specialised MRI sequences and processing algorithms in India and Australia. The collaboration improved their understanding of Alzheimer’s disease. For example, the team determined that certain diagnostic methods distinguish different stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Research cohorts in Australia and India contributed to this improved understanding.

The collaboration resulted in new knowledge related to Alzheimer’s disease. The methods developed can be performed in India and Australia and applied to future projects. Biomarkers discovered through this project have the potential be applied in the clinic. This collaborative research project has strengthened international relationships between Australian and Indian researchers. This is despite challenges faced by both countries during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Research partners in both countries deepened scientific collaboration via:

  • face-to-face meetings and workshops
  • bilateral exchange of research staff
  • video networking, email exchanges and phone calls.

Their research results were shared at conferences and at workshops.

Leading neuroscience research institutes in Australia and India have established strong research links as a result of this project. The collaborators have continued their research collaboration into Alzheimer's. Continued collaboration into Alzheimer's research could help detect Australians and Indians at high risk of developing the disease.

Future collaborations will examine the long-term effects of COVID-19 on brain health. These include areas such as neurological and cognitive consequences and neurodegeneration. The collaboration will expand with new partners and build on the Alzheimers's research.

The exchange of knowledge and know-how will facilitate research into other diseases.

Team leaders

Australian Team Leader:

Professor Ashley Bush, Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health

Indian Team Leader:

Dr Pravat Mandal, National Brain Research Centre