ASMR NSC 2013 – ‘Silver Tsunami – Can medical research ride the ageing wave?’

Over the next forty years, the transition of the age demographic of the Australian society will continue to change dramatically.  Early last century, fewer than one in 25 of the population were aged >65 years. Today, this group comprises one in every eight Australians. By 2045, almost one in four will be aged 65 years and over. As our community ages, the burden of disease and costs associated with chronic age-related diseases will significantly increase health expenditure, thus strategies to promote healthy ageing are crucial not only for our individual wellbeing, but also for ongoing social and economic stability.                     


Obesity and Diabetes

Obesity and type 2 diabetes are highly prevalent in our aging population. As we are now living longer, these diseases are destined to escalate at an alarming rate and are predicted to have a profound economic and social cost to the Australian community. Highlighting the massive financial burden on society, the cost of obesity in 2008 in Australia was astoundingly >$8.283 billion.  How much emphasis should be placed on the development of anti-obesity therapeutics, when lifestyle modifications, and bariatric surgery are known to be effective in certain individuals?


Invited speakers for the obesity and diabetes theme:

Dr Victoria Cogger (University of Sydney)

A/Prof Greg Cooney (Garvin Institute)

Prof Mark Febbraio (University of Melbourne)

A/Prof Josephine Forbes (Mater Medical Research Institute)

Prof Tony Tiganis (Monash University)


Cardiovascular disease

Despite major advances in the treatment of cardiovascular disease over the last 40 years, it remains the largest cause of death in Australians and is becoming more prevalent due to a fatter and older Australia. Improving the treatment of clinical disease is a major contributor to health care costs for the Australian population, and will not be enough to address the problem. However, strategies to alter diet and lifestyle do offer huge potential for future benefit. Should we be focusing on early screening of subclinical disease and simple, targeted lifestyle modifications in people at a high risk of future cardiovascular disease?


Invited speakers for the cardiovascular disease theme:

A/Prof Juliana Hamzah (WAIMR/University of WA)

Prof John Headrick (Griffith University)

Prof Jonathon Hodgson (UWA)


Bone disease

Degenerative bone diseases such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis constitute a major health problem in Australia. Faced with an ever-ageing population we are now presented with the monumental task of alleviating the huge economic burden placed on our health-care system, with the number of public hospital admissions related to osteoarthritic bone pain and osteoporotic-fractures predicted to escalate within the coming decade. Are we genetically predisposed to bone disease or are they simply a reflection of our poor modern lifestyle?  What is the best treatment option i.e. education and prevention vs. nutroceuticals and pharmaceuticals? While controversy continues to overshadow the use of calcium supplements and long-term dependence on frontline anti-resorptive therapy, we are currently witnessing the dawn of the anabolic era with the emergence of anti-sclerostin therapy, which just might prove to be the “Holy Grail” of modern bone medicine.


Invited speakers for the bone disease theme:

Prof Gustavo Duque (University of Sydney)

Prof David Finlay (University of Adelaide)

Prof Ego Seeman (University of Melbourne)

A/Prof Natalie Sims (St Vincent’s Institute)


Brain disease

With our ageing population, the incidence of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is expected to escalate. The greatest hurdle for slowing the socio-economic cost of this disease is that the underlying causes of the neuronal cell death in AD are still not well understood.  Whilst age is the biggest risk factor, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity and hypertension have also been linked to developing dementia.  Conversely, increased physical and cognitive activities have been suggested as protective factors. Can medical research identify biomarkers and facilitate early diagnosis in high-risk populations, thereby allowing potential preventative AD therapies to be trialled?


Invited speakers for brain disease theme:

Prof Tony Broe (Neuroscience Australia)

Dr Alan Rembach (University of Melbourne)

Dr Saul Villeda (University of California, San Francisco)


Nutrition, Physical Activity and Inactivity

An unhealthy diet and physical inactivity are key risk factors for most non-communicable diseases. Of the four key areas identified to improve healthy ageing, the Australian Government Preventive Health Taskforce (2009) found that encouragement of healthy lifestyles had the largest potential for improving the health of the elderly.  As we reach older age we have accrued a lifetime of exposure to our dietary and physical activity behaviours and their sequelae. What lifestyle factors are critical drivers of healthy ageing, and at what age to we need to start thinking about them? What constitutes a healthy lifestyle for older Australians and does this differ to younger age groups? What barriers are there to achieving a healthy diet and a physically active lifestyle in older age? How do lifestyle risk factors interact with social, demographic, economic, genetic and environmental influences on health? Significant gaps exist in our understanding of behavioural determinants of health in older age – can the large number of leading Australian researchers working in this field fill them? 


Invited speakers for nutrition and exercise theme:

Prof Neville Owen (Baker IDI)

A/Prof Anna Peeters (Monash University)

Prof Gary Wittert (University of Adelaide)


Skeletal muscle disease

A slowing of movement and a gradual decline in muscle strength is often associated with ageing, increasing the risk of injury from falls, a dependence on assistance to complete everyday tasks necessary for independent living, and increases recovery time from illnesses.  Sarcopenia  (age-related loss of muscle mass, strength and functionality) and osteoporosis are tightly linked – when muscle activity reduces it exacerbates osteoporosis, establishing a vicious circle.  However sarcopenia need not be an inevitable part of ageing. Physical activity is essential in preventing sarcopenia, yet it is not the only contributing factor, with hormones, diet, oxidative stress and inflammation also responsible. A multi-disciplinary approach is required to produce greater insight into sarcopenia and its prevention.


Invited speaker for skeletal muscle theme:

Prof Miranda Grounds (University of Western Australia)


Campion-Ma-Playoust Memorial Award

This award was instituted by a motion of the Annual General Meeting of the Ausralian Society for Medical Research in December 1975. It consists of a cash award and a certificate that is presented for the best contribution for an oral and/or poster presentation at the Annual Scientific Meeting by a student member or a member under thirty years of age at the time of the Meeting. Please tick the relevant box on the abstract submission form if you wish to be considered.

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