05:35pm Wednesday 29 January 2020

Medical Researchers discuss Alzheimer’s and Motor Neurone Disease breakthroughs

Leading medical researchers will converge on Wollongong this week as UOW hosts the second annual Proteostasis and Disease Symposium.

The international symposium, from 5-7 November at the Novotel Wollongong, will discuss proteostasis – a process that regulates proteins within the body in order to maintain health – and how this could be manipulated to find new treatments and possibly a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, Motor Neurone Disease, Parkinson’s Disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Dr Justin Yerbury, who is researching Motor Neurone Disease at the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute based at UOW, will co-chair the event. He said neurodegenerative diseases are associated with the accumulation of protein into deposits.

“We think that the control mechanisms that regulate how proteins are made and disposed of are gradually switched off as we age, resulting in age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Motor Neurone Disease,” he explained.

Dr Yerbury said scientists around the world are working on different strategies that could potentially control this process with drugs.

“While cures for Alzheimer’s disease and Motor Neurone Disease are a little while off yet, we have made some excellent progress in understanding these terrible diseases in the past 10 years,” he added.

Earlier this year, Associate Professor Heath Ecroyd from UOW’s Proteostasis and Disease Research Centre, who is also co-chairing the event, had a significant breakthrough when his team found that they could harness the activity of naturally-occurring ‘chaperone’ proteins to inhibit protein aggregation.

 “We were very surprised to find that a small fragment of the chaperone protein was as effective as the whole protein in preventing proteins from clumping together and becoming toxic to cells. This represents a new and exciting drug target for us,” Professor Ecroyd said.

“This is a significant finding in the worldwide race to find new drugs to treat devastating ‘diseases of ageing’, such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease, for which there is currently no cure.”

Professor Ecroyd said hosting the Proteostasis and Disease Symposium places UOW at the cutting-edge of work being done in this area.

“It is great that we are able to attract such a high-calibre of medical researchers to Wollongong for this important symposium. It gives us a great chance to discuss our work with them and hear about their most recent findings,” he added.

More information: For more information on the Symposium, including the full program, please see proteostasis.com.au.

Media contact: Elise Pitt, Media & PR Officer, UOW, +61 2 4221 3079, +61 422 959 953 or epitt@uow.edu.au.

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