Support the future of medical research

Posted: 13th December 2017

Thanks to the generosity of SVI supporters, I was awarded an SVI Top-Up Scholarship. 
Gifts to SVI are extremely important as they offer immediate assistance towards SVI’s current needs. They help students like me to achieve, and our researchers to pursue breakthroughs in medical research.

Growing up in Adelaide, my great-grandmother was my mentor, my everything. Sadly, during my undergraduate studies in science, she was diagnosed with dementia. When Professor Michael Parker offered me the opportunity to join SVI to focus my studies on neurodegenerative diseases, I knew this was where I was meant to be – even though this meant moving to Melbourne on my own. 

Although my first year in Melbourne tested my emotional and mental strength, the scholarship allowed me to establish myself in a completely different city, away from my family. By helping cover my bills and rent, the scholarship allowed me to put extra hours and dedication into my studies.
The focus of my PhD is looking for ways to prevent neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. One in ten Australians over 65 live with dementia, of which Alzheimer’s is the most common form. The World Health Organization predicts that the number of people with Alzheimer’s will almost double over the next 20 years to almost 80 million in 2030. After dementia, Parkinson’s is the most common neurodegenerative disease. Approximately 80,000 Australians are affected, with thirty people diagnosed every day. If you, like me, know someone who is suffering from these diseases, you know this is not just about numbers: this is about people’s lives. 
The question we ask in our lab is how can we find a cure for these devastating diseases? There have been many recent advances in understanding neurodegenerative diseases.

We know that both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are linked to accumulation of toxic protein deposits in the brain. We know that the brain has natural ways of removing these deposits. My PhD project focuses on finding a way to enhance this process.
Imagine the brain is a city, and like any city, it needs garbage collectors to keep the streets free of garbage. Similarly, the brain has cells that are responsible for removing toxic protein species that would otherwise build up. 
I am working on understanding the 3D atomic structure of the proteins involved, so we can design drugs to enhance this naturally occurring process. This could lead to a slowing of the disease, or even its reversal. 
This would reduce the burden on sufferers, their families and the health system … but we need your help to make it happen.
Medical discoveries only occur with hard work, long hours and countless experiments. Key to sustaining this over time is SVI’s supportive and stimulating work environment – and the funding to enable students and researchers to continue their vital work.
Will you continue your support and make a difference today? With your help talented students will be able to make great strides over the course of their careers in medical research. 
I ask you to show your support and make a gift to Top-Up Scholarships to invest in the future of medical research.

Yours sincerely 

Jasmina Markulić
PhD Candidate, SVI

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