RMIT researcher Sarah Spencer has won the inaugural Club Melbourne Fellowship in a boost for her work around ageing-associated brain inflammation.
Associate Professor Spencer will use the $10,000 grant to attend the world’s foremost neuroscience conference, Neuroscience 2016, in San Diego, California, to present her latest research on obesity, neuro-inflammation and cognitive dysfunction.
She was presented with her award at a ceremony at the Melbourne Convention Centre.
Spencer, a Vice-Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow in the School of Health and Biomedical Sciences, said the fellowship would allow her to promote her research to an international audience and co-chair a mini-symposium, establishing collaborations with the best in the world.
Club Melbourne awarded Spencer the fellowship for her excellence in research, innovation and leadership in the emerging and complex field of obesity, neuro-inflammation and cognitive dysfunction.
Spencer said: “As our population ages, many more Australians will require care for ageing-related diseases including cognitive dysfunction.
“In addition, the current obesity epidemic means many of us will enter old age after suffering from overweight or obesity for at least some part of our lives.
“So far preliminary data show obesity causes inflammation throughout the brain, including in regions associated with feeding and metabolism, and extending into those responsible for cognitive function.
“We hypothesise that this obesity-associated inflammation can prematurely age the brain, making us more vulnerable to cognitive dysfunction as we age,” Spencer said.
“To test the idea that obesity causes premature inflammatory ageing of the brain, we will collaborate with top researchers like Assistant Professor Ruth Barrientos at the University of Colorado, Boulder, to examine obesity and ageing-related changes to the brain’s immune cell profiles.
“We will correlate these changes with the degree of cognitive dysfunction and test the possibility of reversing this inflammation with a clinically relevant strategic targeting of the brain's immune cells.”
The Club Melbourne fellowship recognises excellence in research, innovation and leadership. It is designed to support high-quality research projects and the next generation of Melbourne’s research leaders.
Spencer will also receive access to the Club Melbourne Ambassador Program network, which covers expertise in diverse disciplines of medicine, science and environment, technology, engineering, business and education.
Story: David Glanz