Prestigious Dementia Australia Fellowship for young Sanfilippo syndrome researcher

16 Feb 2022

In what is a fantastic outcome, both for a talented young researcher and for Sanfilippo syndrome research, Dementia Australia has announced that this year’s recipient of the ‘Race Against Dementia – Dementia Australia Research Foundation Post-doctoral Fellowship’ is Dr Karissa Barthelson from the University of Adelaide.

Dr Barthelson has been working with Professor Michael Lardelli on the Sanfilippo Children’s Foundation-funded project to develop zebrafish models of Sanfilippo types A, B and C.

The laboratory has a core focus on Alzheimer’s disease, however, they turned their attention to Sanfilippo syndrome when they realised they could reveal important insights about both childhood-onset dementias like Sanfilippo and other dementias associated with ageing by comparing and contrasting the mechanisms at play in both types of dementia. 

Dr Barthelson will now extend this work with the $405,000 grant, which will cover her salary and research costs for the next three years. 

She will focus on the overlap in the brain and behavioural changes between Alzheimer’s disease and Sanfilippo syndrome. Using the Alzheimer’s and Sanfilippo zebrafish models developed in the lab, she will assess molecular-level similarities in the pathology observed in their brains and identify whether treatments targeting these shared pathologies are therapeutic in both conditions.

In the Dementia Australia media release about the Fellowship, founder of the Race Against Dementia charity and Dementia Australia patron, Formula 1 racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart said, “Karissa’s research is interesting and different. We desperately need innovative ways of looking at dementia – so Race Against Dementia is delighted to support her”.

Sanfilippo Children’s Foundation couldn’t agree more with Sir Jackie. We are delighted that Karissa’s research and potential are receiving this recognition, and that research involving our support will be thoroughly pursued with this generous Fellowship from Dementia Australia and Race Against Dementia.

Dr Barthelson will be joining the research group of Sanfilippo researcher, Professor Kim Hemsley at Flinders University. She will also be mentored by Professor Ralph Martins AO, an internationally distinguished researcher in Alzheimer’s disease, as well as Dr Nicholas Smith, a practising paediatric neurologist specialising in genetic childhood dementias. She will continue to work collaboratively with Professor Lardelli on the zebrafish models. 

Read more in the Dementia Australia media release here