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Associate Professor Estelle Sontag

Research Program:
Research Topics:
Project Grant
2017 Project Grant
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2016 Project Grant
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2016 Project Grant
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2015 Project Grant
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2014 Project Grant

What are your research interests?

  • Elucidating the mechanisms that lead to development of Alzheimer's disease 
  • Investigating the role of altered dietary folate metabolism in brain disorders
  • Assessing the link between selected genetic and vascular risk factors and the onset of dementia
  • Understanding the mechanisms by which diabetes is a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease
  • Discovering mechanisms that allow nerve cells to make new connections

Why did you get into research?

Alzheimer's disease is a devastating disorder that I have closely witnessed when my own grandmother developed dementia. While Alzheimer's disease is the prevalent dementia in the elderly population, we still don't know what causes this disorder and there is currently no effective treatment or cure for this disease. I am working in collaboration with many international laboratories to elucidate the mechanisms that lead to this disorder, with the understanding that this step is critical to finding a novel approach for treatment. 

What would be the ultimate goal for your research?

Our recent experimental research has generated a lot of clinical interest since it suggests that supplementation with certain folate-derived compounds could help slow down cognitive decline. Our goal is to find a novel safe treatment that could delay the onset and prevent the progression of Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

Future Focus

I am currently working towards elucidating novel mechanisms by which deregulation of certain body metabolic processes can affect brain function and promote dementia. Targeting those new mechanisms would provide novel therapeutic avenues for Alzheimer's disease patients.

Brief profile

Associate Professor Sontag completed her PhD in neuroscience in Strasbourg, France, and obtained a Fellowship from the JDF Foundation for Alzheimer's Research in the USA. She then established her own laboratory in 1996 in the Department of Pathology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. While developing her own research program on Alzheimer's disease, she started collaborating with many neuropathologists and neurologists.

Associate Professor Sontag became a senior member of the Alzheimer's Disease Center of Dallas, a government-funded, dedicated centre for clinical studies on Alzheimer's disease. During that time, she participated in analyses and genotyping (characterisation of genes) of brain tissue, which allowed her to discover new mechanisms involved in the development of Alzheimer's disease pathology. 

Since mid-2009, Associate Professor Sontag has been with the University of Newcastle as an Associate Professor of Medical Biochemistry. Besides teaching medical and biomedical students, she is pursuing research on Alzheimer's disease, in collaboration with two national and three major international laboratories.

In recent years, her experimental work has helped to unveil a novel link between dietary folate deficiency, vascular and genetic risk factors, and pathological markers of Alzheimer's disease. This work was presented at major international conferences and has gained a lot of attention. It has informed the development of new trials in elderly patients with folate derivatives and other related compounds.

While preliminary data from these ongoing clinical studies are very encouraging and show that these compounds can indeed slow down cognitive decline and brain atrophy, researchers are striving to refine current understanding of the disease process to further develop and validate these novel therapeutic strategies for Alzheimer's disease patients.   

Specialised/Technical Skills

  • Preclinical cellular and mouse models of Alzheimer's disease, hyperhomocysteinaemia and folate deficiency
  • Signal transduction, neuritogenesis, synaptic proteins
  • Confocal microscopy, protein biochemistry, molecular and cellular biology

Affiliations

2017

Towards the development of new therapeutic interventions for Alzheimer’s disease
Project Grant

2016

Towards the development of new therapeutic interventions for Alzheimer’s disease
Project Grant
Targeting LCMT1-mediated neuroprotective mechanisms in Alzheimer disease
Project Grant
Description:

Dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia with Alzheimer’s disease accounting for 70% of age-associated dementia.

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2015

Can methylfolate improve the treatment of Alzheimer's disease patients, alone or in combination with the drug, Memantine
Project Grant
Description:

Scanned version on file - Dev team have editable description

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2014

Can dietary folate supplementation slow down Alzheimer’s Disease?
Project Grant
Description:

With more than 1,700 new cases in Australia each week, Alzheimer’s Disease continues to be a huge burden on society, families and carers.

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