Research gives new insight into Alzheimer’s disease

Associate Professor Michael Lardelli and PhD candidate Karissa Barthelson

Associate Professor Michael Lardelli and PhD candidate Karissa Barthelson

Research into Alzheimer’s disease, one of the leading causes of disability and death in Australians aged 65 years or older, has achieved an important breakthrough thanks to University of Adelaide researchers – and long-term donors, the Carthew Foundation.  

Led by Associate Professor Michael Lardelli, in 2014 the University’s Alzheimer’s Disease Genetics Laboratory began an innovative program to introduce Alzheimer’s disease-causing mutations into zebrafish. The researchers then analyse their brains in deep molecular detail to determine the early changes that subsequently lead to the disease in humans.

"The prospect of Alzheimer’s disease strikes fear in the elderly and has a huge economic impact, but there is still a great deal of disagreement within the scientific community about the biological mechanism of the disease," Associate Professor Michael Lardelli said.  

“Through the work we have done, we have found that the one consistent disturbance shared by all our various Alzheimer’s disease mutant fish is a change in how their brains produce energy (in their mitochondria, the “powerplants” of cells). This ties in with our theory that the Alzheimer’s disease mutations disturb the brain’s ability to absorb and use iron that is critical for energy production by mitochondria.”

Alumnus Lindsay Carthew (BE 1978, MBA 1990), trustee of the Carthew Foundation, is excited by the different approach taken by Professor Lardelli and his team which is achieving excellent results; and after years of work, is publishing ground breaking papers.

"The pharmaceutical perspective on Alzheimer’s is a multi-billion-dollar model but it doesn’t explain what’s going on – their proposed cures are a bit of hit and miss," Mr Carthew said. 

This research, which is coming from brilliant young scientists in South Australia, is now giving us a much better idea about what the problem is.Lindsay Carthew
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