The following grants were approved prior to December 2012.
$99,458Dr Jessie Jacobsen School of Biological Sciences, The University of Auckland 2012 - July
Dr Jessie Jacobsen has been awarded the 2012 Neurological Foundation Repatriation Fellowship. Dr Jacobsen will return to New Zealand from her position as Neurological Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA.
Identification of genetic variants in Autism Spectrum Disorder in the New Zealand population
Disorders of the Autism Spectrum (ASD) are estimated to affect approximately 1% of the New Zealand population, and have a strong, but complex genetic basis. The aim of Dr Jacobsen’s research is to investigate autistic traits and heritability in the New Zealand population using next generation DNA sequencing technologies. Identifying a genetic trait that predisposes to the development of a disease can lead to genetic tests, insight into disease biology, differentiation amongst patients and improved treatment options. The genetic data accumulated in this project will help establish a precedent for genetic testing for ASD in New Zealand, creating better education and social support, and ultimately, greater treatment options for patients and family members affected by disorders of the autism spectrum.
$166,244Dr Wallace Brownlee Neurology Department, Auckland City Hospital 2012 - July
The Neurological Foundation V J Chapman Research Fellowship is awarded to a medical graduate committed to a career in neurology, to give him or her the opportunity of spending a period in clinical or biomedical research. This may be combined with advanced clinical training in neurology, but the research component should be at least 50%, and is designed to provide a unique training experience to clinicians with an interest in a career in clinical investigation.
Understanding and preventing long-term disability in multiple sclerosis: a 14-year follow-up study of patients with clinically isolated syndrome (CIS)
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that usually starts with an attack called a clinically isolated syndrome (CIS). Currently there is no cure for MS, and it affects one in every 1400 New Zealanders. Most people have permanent disability ten to fifteen years after the CIS from the effects of relapsing/remitting MS or a gradual deterioration called secondary progressive MS. To manage MS effectively, clinicians need to know who will develop the disability. Dr Brownlee will follow up people who had a first CIS attack 14 years ago and who were last seen seven years ago. Dr Brownlee will undertake advanced MRI scans at the 14 year stage to clarify the causes and predictors of disability and identify new treatment targets.
Dr Wallace Brownlee completed the Royal Australasian College of Physicians written and clinical exams in 2010. Later that year he began his advanced training in Neurology and will finish his core training requirements at the end of 2012. Dr Brownlee’s Neurological Foundation V J Chapman Research Fellowship will be undertaken at the Institute of Neuroinflammation at the University College London under the supervision of leading multiple sclerosis authority Professor David Miller who is also a New Zealander.
TRAINING GRANT: Efficacy and safety of a TIA/Stroke Electronic Decision Support Tool in the primary care setting to improve patient access to secondary services and overall stroke care in New Zealand
$10,000Dr Annemarei Ranta Department of Neurology, MidCentral Health / University of Otago 2012 - July
Of the 8,000 New Zealanders who have a stroke each year, a quarter will have previously experienced a transient ischemic attack (TIA). TIAs identify high-risk patients and rapid best medical management reduces stroke risk by 80 per cent. The TIA/Stroke Electronic Decision Support Tool (EDS) is designed to help general practitioners to achieve this potential risk reduction. The project aims to test the efficacy of the EDS tool with regard to stroke reduction, assess any risks associated with EDS use, and establish costs of EDS use compared with usual management. This is the first formal evaluation of a TIA/Stroke EDS tool and, within three years of study commencement, its results will inform policy and practice relating to use of the tool in New Zealand. The information from this study will be compiled with a number of studies into a PhD thesis.
$156,132Dr Johanna Montgomery Department of Physiology, University of Auckland 2012 - July
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are a set of neurodevelopmental disorders characterised by impaired communication and social behaviour, learning difficulties, and by repetitive or stereotyped behaviours. The estimated number of people with Autism Spectrum Disorders in New Zealand is 40,000. The cause is unclear, and no treatments have been developed. Dr Montgomery’s team has recently shown that mutations that occur in autistic patients result in weakening of communication at the connections (synapses) between neurons. In this research, Dr Montgomery aims to determine whether enhancing the functions of certain proteins at synapses can recover synapse function in autism. Specifically, the impact of zinc in reversing the synaptic effects of genes which are altered in autism will be assessed. Zinc is a metal ion known to stabilise synapse proteins. The research has the potential to identify a unifying link to normalise synaptic changes in autism. This information can then be used to identify cellular mechanisms that could be used to develop treatments for the cognitive symptoms associated with ASD.
$78,143Dr Toni Pitcher Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch 2012 - July
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disease which causes disabling motor (movement) and non-motor disturbances. Currently, there is a distinct lack of information regarding the impact of PD in New Zealand, with the most recent estimate of prevalence being a regional one from the early 1990s. Up-to-date information on the numbers of people living in New Zealand with PD is important: our population structure is changing, and as the proportion of the population aged over 65 years increases, the number of people living with age-related disorders such as PD will also increase. Dr Pitcher will utilise the national prescription database to analyse PD drug dispensing data and provide an up-to-date estimate of the number of Parkinson’s disease patients living in this country and the trends of anti-parkinsonian medication use. Improved information will contribute to better planning and provision of appropriate patient-directed information and support services.