Date: April 2014
In March 2014, the Australian Government asked the National Mental Health Commission to conduct a national Review of Mental Health Services and programmes. The terms of reference defined programmes and services as including prevention, early detection and treatment of mental illness.
The CRC for Mental Health made a submission emphasising the importance of research into mental illnesses. In particular, the submission reiterated the CRC’s support for the McKeon Review finding that Australia should “embed research in the health system.” We believe this shared learning between research, clinical practice and services has the potential to improve the effectiveness of how mental illnesses are treated.
The CRC’s submission also indicated the value of a collaborative approach to research into mental health, especially in “leveraging government investment with private sector investment, as well as embedding end-users in the research process.”
The Commission’s final review report will be provided to the Government by 30 November 2014, and will be available here.
Professor Brian Dean has accepted an appointment as Coordinator of the Psychosis Program for the CRC for Mental Health. Prof Dean has an outstanding record of achievement and leadership in the field of biological psychiatry and a track record of success in the translation of research discoveries into useful innovations in the field of clinical diagnostics. We look forward to the application of his talent and effort in this new role within the CRC.
Date: February 2014
Chief Scientific Officer Professor Ashley Bush appeared on ABC Radio 666 Canberra discussing recent research by the CRC for Mental Health into the link between anaemia and Alzheimer’s disease. The interview was hosted by Alex Sloan and in conversation with Professor Tony Peacock, CEO of the Cooperative Research Centre Association.
You can listen to the interview below.
Arcitecta and the CRC for Mental Health to improve the capture and management of data from clinical research
Date: 31 January 2014
Arcitecta, the company behind Mediaflux – the most flexible and comprehensive metadata management platform for complex, distributed data management – is developing a product to improve the capture and management of data from clinical research worldwide.
Using the Cooperative Research Centre for Mental Health’s real data from volunteers, Arcitecta will develop a new software product that will:
- enable clinicians to capture clinical data at the bedside, and in a form that is easily accessible to them and other non-expert IT users,
- easily import and export new and existing data,
- enable multiple research institutions to collaborate on multiple trials by allowing them to feed data into the repository for this new product, and,
- be open, allowing users to develop additional functions, as and when they need it.
Coverage in the press:
Capturing biomarker metadata for mental health research, PULSE+IT Magazine, 3 April 2014.
Date: 14 January 2014
CRC for Mental Health scientists have discovered a link between Alzheimer’s disease and anaemia, in a study which has the potential to improve the quality of life for people with these major diseases.
The study tested iron levels and related blood chemistry in over 1100 volunteers. The scientists compared results between groups who either had Alzheimer’s disease, had complaints about their memory and healthy volunteers. The scientists found that having Alzheimer’s disease caused a lowering of blood hemoglobin levels, and was a major risk factor for developing anaemia. It is already known that anaemia worsens cognitive decline.
“Alzheimer’s disease and anaemia are the two most common diagnoses in nursing homes, each diagnosis affecting more than half of nursing home residents” said Professor Ashley Bush, Chief Scientist at the CRC for Mental Health and professor at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health.
“Anaemia is a deficiency in red blood cells and can be caused by a variety of factors such as poor diet or blood loss. Older people more frequently develop a type of anaemia that cannot be treated by any available drugs or supplements. We’ve shown that Alzheimer’s disease may be the explanation for this treatment-resistant anaemia, as it is itself a new cause for anaemia that cannot be explained by these other factors.”
“Common symptoms of anaemia include concentration difficulties, fatigue and mood changes. So the research suggests that Alzheimer’s disease lowers hemoglobin and leads to an increased risk for anaemia, which in turn can be having an affect on memory, concentration and learning.”
The research provides a new insight into the mysterious treatment-resistant anaemia of old age.
“The treatment resistant ’idiopathic’ anaemia of old age responds poorly to iron and other supplements, and to other drugs that boost hemoglobin. If we can understand why people with Alzheimer’s disease develop this unexplained form of anaemia, we may be able to target treatments for both disorders,” said co-author Dr Noel Faux.
“We think treating the anaemia will improve general wellbeing including levels of energy, fatigue and potentially some slowing of cognitive decline. This could have an enormous impact on our handling of two major disorders of retirement age.”
The researchers used data from the Australian Imaging, Biomarkers and Lifestyle Study (AIBL), a longitudinal study which is following over 1100 volunteers aged 60 and over.
The results have been published in the prestigious journal Molecular Psychiatry. The full paper is available at http://www.nature.com/mp/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/mp2013178a.html
The CRC for Mental Health was established to create impact. It commenced life with a bold vision for translating research into products and methods of practice that can drive transformational changes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses.
The CRC has made impressive progress towards these goals. For example, we have made discoveries that may prove to be the basis of a reliable blood test to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. Importantly, our findings point towards implementation using a relatively simple and robust apporach which could be rolled out in existing diagnostic laboratories. We look forward to reporting similar progress in our pursuit of biomarkers for other types of mental illnesses.
A critical aspect of our research is its use of data and biological materials collected from hundreds of volunteers, both affected and unaffected by mental illness. The CRC has benefited enormously from pre-existing biobanks such as the Australian Imaging, Biomarker and Lifestyle Study of Ageing (AIBL), the Geelong Health Study and the West Australian Family Study of Schizophrenia. We are developing our own schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease biobanks and working to ensure these resources endure well beyond the remaining five years of the CRC’s initial term of Commonwealth funding.
We have been fortunate to attract a group of very capable PhD students who along with our postdoctoral researchers have opportunities to interact broadly with the scientific community. We have conducted workshops to broaden their perspectives and foster a proactive apporach to career planning. Our research students have also met with people with mental illness and their carers – an interaction which greatly benefitted all parties.
We have continued to engage with our participants, stakeholders and the wider community. We have developed an education program for primary carers in the aged care system to assist them in understanding the causes and consequences of dementia. We have also conducted a number of highly successful community education events, most notably “Science and Dementia” held during National Science Week.
Next year is a critical time for the CRC. In early 2015, our performance will be reviewed by the Commonwealth. We must be able to demonstrate substantial progress towards creating impact from our research. We are on the verge of such success. Next year, we should drive some of our innovative technology into the commercial domain and involve at least one new commercial enduser organisation in our work. We should also expand our educational activities. Most importantly, we should be confident that our current participants can clearly identify the benefits the CRC has brought to them already, and those we will realise in the future.
The CRC’s successes to date are due to a large number of people across organisations, disciplines and geographic areas working collectively. I’d like to take the opportunity to thank all those in the CRC community for their hard work and enthusiasm this year.
Dr Ian Cooke, CEO CRC for Mental Health
December 2013 newsletter
- From the CEO
- Our successes over the 2013 year
- National Health and Medical Research Council grants
- Community outreach – Science & Dementia
- Holiday period
Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre (MNC) is undertaking leading clinical research in psychiatric illness. MNC aims to understand the biological basis of disorders that emerge in childhood and adolescence, including psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. We seek to understand the pattern and timing of both brain and behavioural changes that occur as these disorders emerge and become established. This research will promote early detection and diagnosis and provide new ways to improve treatment.
MNC is seeking healthy volunteers for research studies.
What is involved:
- Brain Imaging (MRI scan)
- Clinical and cognitive assessments
- Biospecimen sample (blood, saliva) collection (some studies only)
You may be eligible to volunteer if:
- You are aged between 15 – 65 years of age
- You have never had a mental illness
- None of your first degree relatives have psychosis or schizophrenia
- You are fluent in English
- You have lived in Melbourne for the past year
- Other eligibility criteria may apply
What are the benefits:
- Results from this study may help to improve treatment of patients experiencing psychosis in the future
- You will be reimbursed for your time and travel expenses.
All projects have been approved by the Melbourne Health Human Research Ethics Committee (Project ID 2012.069, 2009.614, 2010.133, 2012.066, 2012.069).
For further information please contact Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre at email@example.com or call 03 8395 8130, or visit http://www.psychiatry.unimelb.edu.au/centres-units/mnc/index.html
Date: June 2013
Release by: Mercy Health
In June 2013, the Australian Senate Committee on Community Affairs requested submissions for an “Inquiry into the care and management of younger and older Australians living with dementia and behavioural and psychiatric symptoms of dementia (BPSD)”.
Mercy Health, an end-user Participant of the CRC for Mental Health, made an independent submission to the inquiry. Mercy Health’s submission emphasised the value of a multidisciplinary approach to meeting the needs of people with the condition and those of their families. Mercy Health’s submission also indicated that front-line care staff such as GPs and residential aged-care staff need “ongoing support and education” in the etiology of dementia, as well as its diagnosis and care.
You can read Mercy Health’s submission to the enquiry here.
The final report from the Committee on Community Affairs will be available here when released.
Date: June 2013
In 2012, the Australian Parliamentary House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health and Ageing held an inquiry into dementia early diagnosis and intervention practices in Australia.
The CRC made a submission to this inquiry detailing the key challenges in this research field and how early intervention can improve the quality of life for people with dementia. The submission described the inability to diagnose dementia before substantial cognitive decline has occurred as a key roadblock for the prevention and effective treatment of dementia at present.
The final report from the House Standing Committee on Health and Ageing encouraged ongoing government and non-government support for dementia research. It also endorsed the importance of research and awareness raising about preventative lifestyle factors for dementia.
The final report from the House Standing Committee on Health and Ageing is available here.
Read the CRC for Mental Health’s submission here.