28 November 2019

Several Raine Foundation Grants received

Two of our early career researchers have received prestigious priming grants from the Raine Medical Research Foundation.

Dr Alex Tang (pictured), a postdoctoral researcher in the Brain Plasticity Research group at the Perron Institute and University of Western Australia, received $193,639 for his project titled: Harnessing neuroplasticity in the young and old brain with brain stimulation.

Dr Tang’s project aims to investigate how brain stimulation induces neuroplasticity in the young and old brain. Despite the increasing use of brain stimulation to drive neuroplasticity in humans, a basic understanding of which the cells in the brain are stimulated, how they change after stimulation and whether this is altered during normal ageing is poorly understood. Expected outcomes of this project include a greater understanding of how brain stimulation can be used to harness neuroplasticity in young and older adults using advanced brain imaging and genetic tools. The knowledge gained from this project will allow for the optimisation of brain stimulation protocols to promote “healthy ageing”.

Dr Ryan Anderton, head of the Neurodegenerative Disorders Research group at the Perron Institute and the School of Health Sciences at the University of Notre Dame, received $175,000 to investigate neuroprotective peptides showing encouraging results in stroke models and in neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s.

Advanced pre-clinical studies using these peptides have shown promising results in reducing brain injury and neurological deficits in stroke, perinatal hypoxia and traumatic brain injury models. Due to their size and properties, small peptides containing arginine can enter the brain and penetrate cells. Once internalised by cells, these peptides target mitochondria and proteins and help maintain mitochondrial function and cellular energy levels following injury.

Peptides provide an exciting novel class of neuroprotective agent, with potential clinical application in acute and chronic neurological disorders.

“Arginine-rich peptides represent potential therapeutic candidates for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr Anderton says.

Two visiting professorship grants were also received in the same round. Dr Tang has invited Professor Cliff Abraham to visit UWA and the institute in August 2020 via a Forrest Research Foundation (FRF) Distinguished Visiting Fellowship, jointly funded by the Perron Institute. Ornit Chiba-Falek, Associate Professor of Neurology, Duke University, has been invited to visit the institute in 2020 by Professor Anthony Akkari, head of Motor Neurone Disease Genetics and Therapeutics.

The Raine Awards ceremony took place at the UWA Club.