Dr Tracey Bjorkman
Dr Tracey Bjorkman is a senior Lions Medical Research Foundation Fellow with the Perinatal Research Centre, UQ Centre for Clinical Research (UQCCR), Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, The University of Queensland.
Of the 300,000+ babies born in Australia each year most experience a happy and healthy entry to the world. However for a small few complications can arise during birth, often with very little warning and with devastating consequences. Hypoxia-Ischemia – when the brain is starved of oxygen and blood – is the third leading cause of brain injury and infant death in Australia and the leading cause of neonatal seizures in newborn babies around the world.
Neonatal seizures are among the most prominent and distinctive signs of serious neurological damage. Of the babies who do survive, many will face life-long challenges of physical and mental disability including epilepsy and cerebral palsy. Current antiepileptic drugs are relatively ineffective and may cause serious side effects. Despite this, existing treatments for neonatal seizures have changed little over the last 50 years. Dr Bjorkman’s team is investigating better ways to treat seizures and protect the newborn brain from injury.
Dr Carlos Salomon
Dr Carlos Salomon currently holds a senior Lions Medical Research Foundation Fellowship (2016-2020) and leads the Exosome Biology Laboratory based at The University of Queensland located at the Centre for Clinical Diagnostics (CCD) within UQ Centre for Clinical Research (UQCCR).
His research interests include extracellular vesicles, ovarian cancer, pregnancy, preeclampsia, preterm birth and maternal obesity in pregnancy and gestational diabetes mellitus. Currently, Carlos With a Bachelor in Biochemistry with Honours in Immunology from the University of Concepcion, Chile and a Masters degree in Clinical Biochemistry and Immunology, Carlos was awarded his PhD from The Pontifical Catholic University of Chile in December 2012. He has completed studies at The University of Barcelona (Barcelona, Spain), The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (San Antonio, Texas, USA), and The University of Queensland (Brisbane, QLD, Australia) in Regulation of transport systems (2010), Placental function during pregnancy (2011), and Mass Spectrometry (2012), respectively.
As an author of more than 70 journal publications and over 115 abstracts during the period of 2011-2017, Carlos established and leads the Exome Biology Laboratory in which human exosomes can be isolated, characterised and their role elucidated to evaluate their clinical utility as biomarkers of disease and therapeutic interventions.
Project: Tumour-derived exosomes as a signature of ovarian cancer – liquid biopsies as indicators of tumour progression
Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka
Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka is a Lions Medical Research Foundation Senior Research Fellow conducting research at the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research (UQCCR), Faculty of Medicine. She is an adjunct research fellow at School of Psychology, The University of Queensland, and Department of Neurology, Royal Brisbane & Woman’s Hospital. Dr Dissanayaka leads the Neuro Mental Health Unit at the UQCCR.
Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka is committed to improve quality of life of people suffering from incurable brain diseases like dementia and Parkinson’s disease, and their carers. Dementia and Parkinson’s disease are the two most common brain diseases observed in late life. Unfortunately, at present, there is no cure for such progressive diseases predominantly observed in older Australians. Dementia is the second leading cause of deaths in Australians. There are over 410,000 Australians currently suffering from dementia and over 80,000 Australian suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Everyday, around 244 Australians are diagnosed with dementia and 32 Aussies are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. With our increase in the ageing population, an exponential growth in dementia and Parkinson’s disease is expected within the next few years.
By 2025 number of people with dementia and Parkinson’s disease is estimated to double and by 2050, this number is projected to reach over 1 million. At present, over half of Australians in residential aged care facilities have dementia. Estimates suggest that Australians annually spend $14.6 billion on dementia and $9.9 billion on Parkinson’s disease. These incurable brain diseases result in significant burden to individuals, their family members and to the society.
Dr Dissanayaka’s vision is to improve mental health outcomes for older Australians suffering from dementia and Parkinson’s disease, and their carers. Mental illnesses are the largest single cause of disability in Australia and costs $56.7billion annually. Depression and anxiety are common, but are poorly recognised and under treated in dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Carers of patients with such diseases also suffer from significant psychological distress, which must be recognised and treated. Dr Dissanayaka’s cutting-edge program of research conducted at the University of Queensland consist dual streams.
A basic science stream including brain imaging to identify mechanisms and markers of mental dysfunctions in dementia and Parkinson’s disease, and an applied clinical stream including development of new tools for early identification and new psychological treatment for improved management of dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Her work extends to use of telemedicine for wider dispersal of psychological treatment to rural and remote communities, incorporates new virtual reality and mobile phone technologies for effective delivery of psychotherapy, and examines alternative methods such as introducing mindfulness and pairing undergraduate students with people in residential aged care facilities to reduce loneliness and decrease depression and anxiety in older Australians. Her research approach allows accelerating discovery of new targeted treatment to reduce mental illness in brain diseases like dementia and Parkinson’s disease and rapidly translating findings into clinical practice and residential aged care facilities.
While improving quality of life of patients with dementia and Parkinson’s disease, and their carers, Dr Dissanayaka’s important program of research supported by the Lions Medical Research Foundation allows capacity building and training the next generation of psychological service providers and neuroscientists in Australia and worldwide.