19 July 2022
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News

A $150,000 grant from the Terry and Maureen Hopkins Foundation will advance research investigating how to develop a blood test for dementia.

The funds will support work towards a widely-accessible diagnostic test that can be easily processed by standard pathology laboratories.

The project, part of the Colonial Foundation Healthy Ageing Centre, a collaboration between WEHI and the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH), is focused on a protein in brain cells known as neurofilament light.

The protein helps maintain the structure of brain cells and is released when a brain cell is damaged.

By developing a blood test to identify neurofilament light, researchers hope to diagnose dementia far earlier and enable interventions to help slow the progression of the disease.

Dr Jeff Smith, Senior Research Officer, and Kruti Patel, Research Assistant, are working on technology that will readily integrate the blood test into existing pathology lab infrastructure.

“Neurofilament light is emerging as an important marker for measuring neurological damage, but it is our hope that this test will be the first of many,” Dr Smith said.

The blood test, which will be developed for use by general practitioners in daily practice, will be able to distinguish between various neurological and neurodegenerative illnesses and psychiatric illnesses.

Associate Professor Andrew Webb, head of the Colonial Foundation Healthy Ageing Centre, said the work was one of many projects at the centre helping progress outcomes for dementia patients.

“This collaboration between WEHI and the RMH ensures we are translating academic research into clinical application. By bringing together the expertise of both of these organisations we are hoping for a brighter future for patients who are diagnosed with dementia,” A/Prof Webb said.

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