2010-11 Summer Students
The two summer research students sponsored by the Foundation over the past summer presented the results of their research to a combined meeting of Friends of the Foundation and the Auckland branch of the
N.Z Association of Gerontology in May. This reporting back is one of the conditions for receiving a scholarship.
The two projects could have hardly been more dissimilar, highlighting the enormous range of issues that have a bearing on ageing.
Nicholas worked under the supervision of professors Louise Nicholson and Colin Green in the Department of Anatomy with Radiology on a project designed to throw more light on the cause of brain-cell death that is associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. In particular they were trying to discover if the proteins that form the channels between brain cells that allow them to communicate with each other may themselves be causing inflammation and cell death by signalling microglial cells, the defence cells of the brain, to accumulate at the site and release powerful enzymes designed to remove the cause of the inflammation – most likely an abnormal protein deposited in the brain in Alzheimer’s disease - but which also destroy brain cells. Using complex tissue staining and imaging techniques they compared markers of inflammation in the brains of 8 deceased people with Alzheimer’s disease, with tissue from the brains of 5 others without evident Alzheimer’s. They found significant differences between the normal and Alzheimer brain tissue, consistent with their theory of events. In particular they found a three-fold increase in microglial cells in the locality of gap junctions in Alzheimer brain tissue compared with normal. Nicholas presented these intensely interesting and complex findings extremely well to an audience largely ignorant of neural pathobiology. His dad was present to support him.
Ranalie's report was delivered in absentia via a DVD. Her project was entitled: Older People’s Place-based Care in Aotearoa New Zealand. This project was supervised by Dr. Janine Wiles, based in the Department of Social and Community Health. It is well recognised that older people in general prefer living out their ageing years in the place of their choice, normally their own home. This is called somewhat obscurely ‘ageing in place.’ While there is a lot of research data on the value of this to a person’s well-being, there is very little research on understanding the extent to which older people take care of their ‘place’. So Ranalie investigated the extent to which older people make active contributions to their communities and neighbourhoods. She characterised their contributions in terms of activism i.e. participation in community and national organisations; advocacy, i.e. representing their communities on state agencies and local organisations; volunteering,i.e. helping others through organised activities and groups, providing skills, raising funds etc., and nurturing via a variety of activities ranging from helping with gardening to proving emotional support and friendship. She was able to identify a number of motives for this ‘care of place’ including attachment to the ‘place’, a commitment to fighting for social justice and one’s spiritual beliefs. She found that place-based care had a positive influence not only on the well being of people in the community but on the care-giver as well. This paper sparked a lot of interest and discussion.
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