Hudson Institute researcher awarded NHMRC-ARC dementia fellowship

Samantha BartonThe Hudson Institute’s Samantha Barton has been awarded a highly competitive grant for dementia research in the latest round of NHMRC and ARC funding announcements.

Ms Barton, who completed her PhD at the Hudson Institute in June, received a joint National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) – Australian Research Council (ARC) Dementia Research Development Fellowship.

The fellowship will enable her to investigate causative mechanisms involved in frontotemporal dementia (FTD), the second most common type of dementia.

“FTD is a progressive, incurable and ultimately fatal neurodegenerative disease,” Ms Barton said.

“An improved understanding of the biology involved in FTD is required in order to develop neuroprotective and reparative treatments that will slow, stop and ultimately repair neurodegeneration.”

Current research has identified the degeneration of the brain in FTD may not be entirely due to nerves themselves and could actually be partly attributed to the surrounding cells within the brain. One of these cell types are oligodendrocytes, critical for nerve maintenance and myelination.

“To date, oligodendrocytes have been highlighted as playing a role in other neurodegenerative diseases but haven’t yet been investigated in FTD and my research will investigate the role of oligodendrocytes in FTD,” added Ms Barton.

Ms Barton said she aims to help patients suffering these debilitating illnesses and give them hope by identifying the underlying causes of dementia. “It is only through identifying cause of disease that we can identify potential therapeutic targets.”

As part of the fellowship, Ms Barton will spend two years at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh, UK and then two years at the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Division of The Ritchie Centre, investigating the use of stem cell therapy for nerve damage in FTD.

Fellow researcher at the Monash Health Translation Precinct, Dr Chris Moran, also received a joint NHMRC-ARC dementia research fellowship.

A geriatrician at Monash Health, Dr Moran is an Early Career Clinical Fellow and senior lecturer in the Stroke and Ageing Research Group at Monash University’s School of Clinical Sciences. His research focuses on the relationship between type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia.

Combined, the grants awarded to Monash Health Translation Precinct researchers in this round of funding total more than $1.1 million.

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