Associate Professor Lezanne Ooi Professor Chennupati Jagadish Photo Credit Paul Jones

Artificial Intelligence will be used to identify normal brain function

Associate Professor Lezanne Ooi and Associate Professor Mirella Dottori from the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI) are among a team of researchers who shared in a two million dollar boost for Alzheimer’s research.  

Alzheimer’s disease affects nearly half a million Australians and is the second leading cause of death in the country. 

“Dementia is a global problem faced by society. Studying Alzheimer’s affected brain organoids and healthy organoids will enable us to better understand Alzheimer’s disease and help find solutions to the problem,” says Professor Chennupati Jagadish, Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science. 

Associate Professor Ooi and Associate Professor Dottori are on the team of lead investigator Professor Chennupati Jagadish AC from the Australian National University (ANU). 

“I am delighted to be leading this project involving bright young and mid-career researchers from various disciplines. 

The team includes researchers from IHMRI, the University of Wollongong, ANU, the University of Melbourne, Monash University and the University of California, San Diego, USA. 

Dementia Australia Research Foundation Chair, Professor Graeme Samuel AC, said the submissions to the inaugural $1 million innovation grant inspired the judging panel and funders so much that they doubled the prize. 

Three grants instead of one, were awarded from more than 40 different applications submitted.

“This significant research funding boost, aimed at preventing and treating various forms of dementia, will promote important collaboration in Australia and the USA,” added Associate Professor Dottori.

The team was awarded a $500,000 grant through the Dementia Australia Research Foundation with the Yulgilbar Alzheimer’s Research Program (YARP). 

The project will combine technologies in stem cell research with artificial intelligence (AI) to develop ‘mini-brains’ from stem cells taken from people living with Alzheimer’s disease as well as individuals unaffected by the disease.  

“We will be able to model brain function ‘in-a-dish’ and then apply steps and AI-based analyses to identify key functional differences between normal and Alzheimer’s disease brain organoids and predict stimulation parameters that may promote ‘normal’ brain function,” said Associate Professor Lezanne Ooi.

“By using platforms at IHMRI, like the new electrophysiology facility and the SyncroPatch robot, we will be able to measure the functionality of neurons and their networks to determine the difference between cells from Alzheimer’s and non-Alzheimer’s donors,” said Associate Professor Mirella Dottori. 

Professor Perminder Sachdev from the University of New South Wales was awarded the $1 million grant and another $500, 000 grant was awarded to Professor Simon Bell at the Monash Institute of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. 

“Dementia Australia is thrilled to see the Grant attract a brilliant cross-pollination of internationally-recognised scientists and researchers across areas of nanoscience, stem-cell biology and health data,” Professor Samuel said. 

People living with dementia and carers will be included in all stages of the ‘mini-brain’ research at IHMRI.

Media contact

Louise Negline, Communications Coordinator

t: 4221 4702

m: 0417 044 867

e: louisenegline@ihmri.org.au

Top photo: Associate Professor Lezanne Ooi and Professor Chennupati Jagadish. Photo by Paul Jones.

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