New Zealand's first dementia prevention research clinic

22 March 2016
Director of the new Dementia Prevention Research Clinic is Professor Lynette Tippett.

New Zealand’s first Dementia Prevention Research Clinic will open in Auckland on Friday 8 April at the University of Auckland.

It will be the first of a national network of Dementia Prevention Research Clinics established by Brain Research New Zealand (BRNZ).

BRNZ is a Government funded Centre of Research Excellence undertaking ground breaking scientific studies on the ageing brain and ageing-related brain disorders.

The Minister for Science and Innovation, the Hon Steven Joyce, will formally open the first clinic at the University’s Centre for Brain Research in Grafton. Further Dementia Prevention Research Clinics are scheduled to open in Christchurch and Dunedin later this year.

This national collaborative research effort involves partnerships between neuroscientists from the Universities of Auckland, Otago, Canterbury and AUT, clinicians from the District Health Boards, and the community.

The Dementia Prevention Research Clinics will be at the frontline of collaborative research studies involving individuals with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MPI) and those with very early Alzheimer’s disease.

Along with Hon Steven Joyce, the following people will also speak at the launch: BRNZ Co-Directors Distinguished Professor Richard Faull (University of Auckland) and Co-Director Professor Wickliffe Abraham (University of Otago), Professor Richard Blaikie (Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research at the University of Otago), Professor John Fraser (Dean of the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland), Associate Professor Lynette Tippett (Director of the Dementia Prevention Research Clinic) along with a clinic research participant from the community.

The DPRC will enable cutting-edge research to identify factors, or groups of factors, that influence progression from Mild Cognitive Impairment to dementia.

This will help the development of testing and scientific research of novel treatments and lifestyle interventions to slow disease onset and progression.

“Slowing the disease onset and progression by five years would cut the prevalence of Alzheimer’s and dementia by 50 percent, because people would live a healthy life longer, and remain intellectually, physically and socially active into old age” says Professor Richard Faull.

“This would have a huge benefit on the quality of life in our increasing ageing population and markedly reduce the costs of health care.

The Dementia Prevention Research Clinics are about combining world class scientific research with the active involvement of members of the community together with a team of health professionals providing hope for the future.

The clinics offer an exciting new opportunity for people in the earliest stages of dementia to join a longitudinal study which holds promise for future research findings.

The first phase of the clinics is to recruit people with MCI into a longitudinal study to identify biomarkers, or a biomarker signature, that indicates those who will go onto develop Alzheimer’s Disease.

“This national clinic network will provide patients and their families with an unprecedented opportunity to become a part of a dynamic research process which will contribute to a significant improvement in our understanding of the underlying causes, treatment, management and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias,” says Professor Faull.

When patients and their families attend the dementia clinic they will typically undergo a detailed characterisation of their brain health and lifestyle.
Blood tests and MRI scans will be conducted and this data will provide invaluable information to neuroscientists and doctors attempting to identify biomarkers and clinical markers of disease.

The DPRC will collect holistic information by listening to the experiences of the research participant and the needs of family members and care-givers. Clinic participants will be monitored longitudinally and will be invited to participate in a broad range of preliminary clinical trials by researchers at BRNZ.

This could include testing novel drugs, nutritional supplements, and cognitive, social and physical interventions designed to prevent, delay or ameliorate MCI and other related dementias.

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