Finding a treatment for Vascular Dementia


Currently 25% of all Australians over 85 are suffering from some form of dementia and it is projected that by 2060, 50% of all people in Australia over 85 will develop some form of dementia. While Vascular dementia (VaD) currently accounts for around 20% of all dementia cases, it is increasingly being recognised as being present in other types of dementia as well, most notably being from Alzheimers disease.

VaD arises from minor obstructions in the brain limiting blood flow to the brain, known as “hypoperfusion”. These obstructions can lead to minor strokes which are responsible for progressive cognitive decline. The causes that are associated with hypoperfusion are similar to risk factors commonly implicated in stroke and heart disease such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. There are currently no specific treatments for VaD.

A new form of cell death called ferroptosis has been discovered in the brain in the last two years, where it has been observed that iron and iron oxidation is present in unusually high amounts when cells die in the brain after prolonged "hypoperfusion" where there is limited blood flow to the brain.

Based on this, a new therapeutic approach has been proposed to investigate  iron levels in brains with vascular dementia to see if preventing the excessive build up of iron can prevent the onset of vascular dementia.

Hadassah Hospital has developed a unique way of inducing and observing VaD in mice and the Florey Institute has a specialised assay for assessing the levels of iron in mice with VaD. The scientists involved are pictured below.

AUSiMED is currently funding both teams to work together to identify the levels of iron in mice with VaD in a 12 month work program.

Funding will be used  to assess if ferroptosis inhibitors are effective in preventing the cell death that leads to VaD. Some ferroptosis inhibitors are publicly available without patents. If any of these inhibitors were effective, the time to get a product to market would be faster than taking a brand new product to market and clinical trials could be commenced very rapidly.

Dr Amit Lotan
Pyschiatrist, Hadassah Medical Organisation,
Jerusalem, currently working at the Florey Institute, Melbourne
  Prof Ashley Bush
Head of the Neurodegeneration Oxidation Biology Unit, Florey Institute, Melbourne
  Prof Bernard Lerer
Director of the Biological Psychiatry  Laboratory, Hadassah Medical Organisation, Jerusalem