Melbourne, July 15: A new research the Australian Imaging Biomarkers Lifestyle Study of Ageing (AIBL) – has found that the number of 25,000 Australians with Alzheimer’s may be only the tip of the iceberg.

Researchers now fear that brain scans are revealing that almost one third of Australians aged over 60 have preclinical Alzheimer’s disease, putting them at a significantly greater risk of developing the deadly disease.

This research, largest of its kind in the world, aims to develop an early diagnosis technique for Alzheimer’s disease.

Professor Ralph Martins AO, who was instrumental in establishing the AIBL study 10 years ago, examined the quest for an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease at a lecture at ECU Joondalup, NSW today.

“Alzheimer’s disease is a massive, and growing, global health challenge.

“To date all clinical trials of treatments have failed, which has been largely attributed to the interventions being undertaken too late in the disease process when the brain is already severely damaged,” Professor Martins said.

This is why the AIBL study was established, so we can try to identify a way to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease early in its progression when treatment can be more effective.”

Prof Martins was the first to propose and demonstrate that the Alzheimer brain was under oxidative stress, which is now widely recognized by the Alzheimer research community.

Lifestyle factors

The AIBL study has also allowed researchers to examine the role lifestyle factors play in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

“We have been able to prove that both dietary patterns and exercise levels play an important role in modifying the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease,” Professor Martins said.

“By better understanding how these lifestyle factors influence the risk of Alzheimer’s disease we will hopefully be able to develop effective means of preventing or slowing the disease.”

Professor Ralph Martins, Foundation Chair in Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease at Edith Cowan University, was appointed the Director of the Centre in 2004.

He is instigator and director of the state government funded Centre of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and Care composed of researchers from 4 universities, 3 hospitals and 2 healthcare providers.

Prof Martins graduated from University of Western Australia with a PhD in 1986 and in 1987 he won a scholarship to Heidelberg University to work with Konrad Beyreuther.

His collaborative seminal research involved isolating and characterising beta-amyloid and its precursor, the amyloid precursor protein (APP), which are now recognized as central to the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease.

In 1989 he joined Professor Masters at Melbourne University where he was the first to isolate and characterize the molecular components of the neuropathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.

This led to an international patent and formation of a spin-off company, Alzhyme Pty Ltd.

Prof Martins work in the Alzheimers field is also recorded as the Senior Editor, for the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Editorial Board Member for Current Drug Targets CNS & Neurological Disease.

Born to Indian parents, Prof Martins moved to Perth at 16 years of age.

Shalini Singh

details & image: @therecord

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