The Australian Imaging Biomarker and Lifestyle Study (AIBL)
Australia’s largest, longitudinal study investigating biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease is known as AIBL - the Australian Imaging Biomarker and Lifestyle Study of Ageing. It is now in its eighth year.
This invaluable study is teaching us about the natural progression of Alzheimer’s by monitoring the way human brains age. It is the most comprehensive study of cognition, imaging and measurement of blood-based biomarkers in the world.
In Victoria, there are almost 78,000 people living with dementia, most of whom have Alzheimer’s disease. This figure is expected to grow to 98,000 by 2020 and over 246,000 by 2050.
The study began in 2006, initially co-funded by CSIRO, by recruiting and collecting data from 1,112 people aged over 60 years of age, every 18 months. The study also includes an enrichment cohort of 397 participants providing data every 18 months.
Those involved have Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment or are healthy.
The chief aim? Early (preclinical) detection and the opportunity for potential intervention.
The study promises to provide an increasing amount of useful information as the years pass and more longitudinal data is accumulated.
AIBL is regularly recruiting new volunteers to enrich the cohort and over 300 new participants have been screened at baseline.
Neuroimaging studies have shown that extensive beta-amyloid (Aβ) deposition precedes significant cognitive impairment and grey matter atrophy by more than 15 years, and Aβ deposition is associated with cognitive decline at the preclinical stages of the disease process, denoting the non-benign nature of Aβ. Amyloid imaging is likely to have an increasingly important role in clinical management of Alzheimer’s provided it can be made accessible and affordable and the scans can be read in a consistent and reliable manner.
It is now a real possibility that blood biomarkers will contribute to future population screening approaches for Alzheimer’s risk. When properly standardised, peripheral biomarkers represent a rich source of physiological information. A number of different biomarkers have been identified that are expressed in blood and have relationships to changes in the central nervous system, and when combined appropriately these biomarkers may be exploited to develop a population screening tool to triage the community for more intensive and specific examinations such as Aβ Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanning or Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) testing.
Investigation of lifestyle factors within AIBL has contributed to a developing international literature suggesting that diet and physical activity are related to dementia risk. In addition to physical activity frequency, intensity of physical activity appears important, with higher intensity activity associated with better cognitive function. Relationships between physical activity and age-related hippocampal atrophy, plasma and brain Aβ levels have been observed, and these relationships appear to be moderated by APOE genotype.
AIBL joins forces with Alzheimer’s Australia - Victoria
Alzheimer’s Australia Victoria produces updated resources and publications in dementia related research and information. Help sheets in community languages are available. All resources are accessible on the website (LINK): www.fightdementia.org.au/vic/publications
The organisation shares office space with the Florey AIBL team, enhancing opportunities to combine research with advocacy. The new site houses a dementia learning centre which offers a virtual dementia experience - an interactive environment intended as an experiential learning exercise for professional carers. The opportunities for collaboration are tremendous as AIBL researchers work alongside those operating directly with dementia clients and consumers.
Scientists in the Neurodegeneration division interrogate how neurones live, die and can be rescued to improve brain function in degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s and Motor Neuron Diseases. There is no effective treatment for Motor Neurone Disease and the incidence of Parkinson’s Disease is rising alarmingly in our aging community. Gene abnormalities, energy deprivation, toxic rubbish accumulation and inflammation all contribute to a toxic environment for brain cells. Our teams study these events in animal models and cultured cells, with a view to translating knowledge into new therapies for human patients.