Investigating blood flow through the brain to provide new therapies for patients with Alzheimer’s disease, is the drive behind the latest research by the University of Tasmania’s Dr Brad Sutherland.

Dr Sutherland’s research is one seven projects from the University’s College of Health and Medicine to enjoy success in the latest round of 2018 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding.

In the simplest terms, the research aims to unravel the mysteries of pericytes, a cell found only in capillaries which maintain blood flow throughout the brain, and their connection to Alzheimer’s.

And the possibilities are exciting with the hope that pericytes may provide a new therapy option for the disease.

One possible cause of Alzheimer’s disease is narrowing of small blood vessels (capillaries) within the brain, limiting blood flow and energy supply.

Dr Brad Sutherland.

“Pericytes, a cell found only on capillaries, maintain blood flow throughout the brain and in Alzheimer’s pericytes may die leading to an energy deficit and memory problems.

“We will test whether pericyte loss causes Alzheimer’s and how this is happening and in the long term pericytes could provide a new therapy option for the disease.”

A Senior Lecturer in Neuroscience in the School of Medicine, Dr Sutherland came to the University of Tasmania in 2016 to continue his career-long research into blood flow and brain injury following stroke.

"One of the big unknowns in the world is how the brain actually works,” Dr Sutherland said.

We know so little about the brain, yet it controls everything we think, say and do.

“Discovering new phenomena associated with brain function makes neuroscience so exciting.”

Dr Sutherland said the NHMRC funding would provide a great boost to this latest and possibly groundbreaking, new research.

This funding provided by the NHMRC will enable us to investigate a potential cause of Alzheimer’s disease that has not been investigated before and may open up the possibility of a novel therapy option for the prevention and treatment of this disabling condition.

“It will enable me to build my team looking at neurovascular function in not only Alzheimer’s disease, but a range of neurological disorders, and will provide the important first steps at looking at the contribution of the vascular system to Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.”

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About Dr Brad Sutherland

Dr Brad Sutherland is a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Medicine in the College of Health and Medicine. His main research interests are in understanding how blood flow is regulated in the brain, identifying mechanisms of brain injury following stroke, and discovering novel therapeutic targets. He also teaches Pharmacology and Neuroscience into a number of units as part of the BPharm and BMedRes degrees.

View Dr Brad Sutherland's full researcher profile