Childhood dementia – Dementia in the early years

Childhood dementia is a group of rare genetic diseases that is estimated to affect one in every 2,800 babies.

One in every 2,800 babies is born with a condition that causes childhood dementia, but due to its rarity, little attention is paid to the disorder. It is a severe health problem for families as well as a significant burden on the Australian health system: childhood dementia costs the Australian economy $389 million each year.

Symptoms of childhood dementia vary and start from the age of 3 onwards. All children with dementia will progressively lose skills they have already developed, such as the ability to walk, talk and recognise their loved ones. Life expectancy is between 10 to 20 years.

Dr. Prashant Bharadwaj initiated a study that involves both laboratory research and clinical investigation to identify biomarkers related to childhood dementia, in collaboration with Dr Isaac Canals (Lund University, Sweden) to model Sanfilippo syndrome, which is a common cause of childhood dementia in Australia.

The project aims to identify specific changes in proteins in the blood and urine of children with various types of childhood dementia that could potentially be used to monitor the progression of their disease. A deeper understanding of this will be vital when administering or researching any intervention.

Dr Bharadwaj’s work is funded by various sources, including primary funding from Alzheimer’s Research Australia. The project is also supported by a grant of $250,000 awarded by the WACRF (WA Child Research Fund) in 2021.

The impact

This project will add to the knowledge base about these diseases and may uncover new approaches to treatment.