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There are currently 413,106 Australians currently living with dementia and without a major research breakthrough, this number is set to increase to approximately 1.1 million by 2056, with an estimated cost to the economy of $36.85 billion.
With no cause or cure currently available, research grants are vital to reversing these estimates and improving future outcomes for people living with dementia, their carers, family and friends.
It is only through the generosity of our supporters that the AADRF is able to grow capacity in dementia research through funding Australia’s best and brightest early career researchers.
These are researchers who are dedicated to better understanding the causes of dementia and developing innovative strategies to improve the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care of this life limiting condition.
A survey of the 108 early career researchers supported by the AADRF during the decade to 2011 found that over two thirds of these researchers are still working in the field of dementia, they have published over 1,300 peer-reviewed papers between them, and they have gone on to attract almost $72 million worth of additional funding. These findings represent a 17-fold return on the AADRF investment of just $4.4 million during this timeframe.
With the AADRF due to repeat the survey this year, it is expected that the return will have only increased, illustrating the importance of supporting talented new and early-carer researchers and how effectively this can build capacity in dementia research.
The 2015 round of grants saw CSIRO’s Dr Caroline Bull awarded a $50,000 Hazel Hawke Research Grant in Dementia Care. Dr Bull has since used the funds in her research project titled Psychological and nutritional determinants of telomere and genome integrity in dementia carers.
“Telomeres are regions of DNA that protect the ends of chromosomes from damage, and play a critical role in keeping our DNA healthy. Damaged and unstable chromosomes are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, reduced immune function, neurodegeneration, and cancers," Dr Bull said.
“People who experience high levels of psychological stress, such as carers, have shorter telomeres than lower-stress individuals. This study investigates telomere length and DNA damage of dementia carers, together with a panel of psychological, physiological, diet and lifestyle measures.
“The Hazel Hawke grant has allowed me to complete the full study with all the analyses that we proposed. With this full data set completed we can now look at multiple factors in the health of carers, and how they interact, with a view to identifying and mapping out the best strategies to protect and support carer health in the long term.
“It’s very difficult for early career researchers to be competitive with the main funding bodies meaning that new ideas may not get recognised. It’s so important for early career researchers to be supported – primarily so that bodies such as AADRF can tap into the energy and new ideas of early career researchers but also to support these researchers establish their careers.
“Through these grants AADRF are helping to keep researchers in science and research, while ensuring they can remain as dementia researchers, and not have to change fields just to find funding.”
If you are an early career researcher, join Dr Caroline Bull and apply for an AADRF project grant today. For more information on the 2017 Dementia Grants Program or to apply click here. Round 2 of the Dementia Grants Program (PhD Scholarships) will open in September 2017.
To donate to the AADRF or the Hazel Hawke Alzheimer’s Research and Care Fund and support Australia’s future leaders in dementia research, please click here or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (02) 6278 8900.
Pictured: Dr Caroline Bull
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