UNSW Sydney’s Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) has launched Dementias Platform Australia (DPAU) in partnership with the already established Dementias Platform UK (DPUK), with a collective vision of accelerating new discoveries in the understanding and diagnosis of dementia.
The collaboration, which allows for access to research data from multiple dementia studies carried out in Australia, the Asia-Pacific region and beyond to all six continents, will enable new insights into ageing, age-related diseases and risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
“It’s hugely exciting to see how the dementia research community in Australia is thriving. The close partnership between DPUK and DPAU will enable us to share technical assets and best practice, and to facilitate international data analysis. Science is data-driven, and we can help accelerate progress in dementia research by working together at a global level to improve data accessm” says Director of DPUK, Professor John Gallacher.
“The aim is to transform the study of the epidemiology of brain ageing and make it truly global,” says the Co-Director of CHeBA, Professor Perminder Sachdev.
The challenges posed by dementia are complex. Addressing them requires many smaller pieces of a puzzle to come together to increase our understanding of brain function and of the risks that genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors pose to healthy brain ageing. While the contribution of one research participant, one researcher or one study is often modest, the ability to combine data across many studies has a potential not yet fully realised.
The DPAU platform, which uses secure technology deployed at Monash University, will house data on physical and brain health from studies conducted around the world. Monash SeRP is a secure, trusted and scalable environment for data sharing, governance, control and management services for researchers.
The DPAU will complement the DPUK and other satellite dementias platforms, forming a network of dementia studies in a truly global effort to defeat dementia.
According to Dr Vibeke Catts, Research Manager at CHeBA and project leader of DPAU, dementia research will be reshaped through the hosting of data from international longitudinal and cross-sectional studies of brain ageing.
“The impact that health and medical research has on society cannot be underestimated,” says Dr Catts.
“DPAU allows for critical information about disease trends and risk factors, outcomes of treatment or public health interventions as well as methods of care and associated costs.”
“Through DPAU and our partnership with DPUK, we will be able to securely share and analyse all research data – including such factors as genomics and medical imaging,” she says.
Initially, DPAU will launch with data from one of CHeBA’s main consortia – Cohort Studies of Memory in International Consortium (COSMIC) – comprising 44 cohort studies from 33 countries and involving more than 150,000 individual research participants. DPAU will also host the data governed by the CHeBA Research Bank, including its Memory and Ageing Study, Sydney Centenarian Study and the Older Australian Twins Study. Data from these studies represent the work of CHeBA researchers funded by eight NHMRC grants over the last 13 years and have already formed the basis of over 250 research publications.
“Making the data available via DPAU will ensure that the generous contribution of time given by CHeBA research participants will continue to yield new clues to the causes of dementia well into the future,” says Dr Catts.