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The Li Transformative Hub for
Research in Eating Disorders (Li-THRED)

Launched earlier this year in June, the Li Transformative Hub for Research into Eating Disorders (Li-THRED) is a comprehensive, cutting-edge program of research and clinical trials in eating disorders.  THRED will be pioneering new biological treatments; paving new avenues and delivering novel and effective treatment options. Ultimately, these contributions could greatly improve health outcomes and outlooks for the estimated 1 million Australians suffering from eating disorders- and benefit all those surrounding them.  
Led by Professor Jayashri Kulkarni and her team of THRED researchers, the Hub focuses on  utilising the latest developments in neuroscience and brain research to generate an evidence base for new approaches to treating eating disorders.  

Thanks to the visionary support of our Founding patrons, David Li AM and Angela Li, and additional contributors including Ms Sherry Li, The Kinsella-Connelly Foundation, One in Five and Swisse Wellness, Li-THRED is poised to revolutionise treatments for anorexia nervosa.  Since the inception of THRED in June 2023, our team has engaged in strategic planning, meticulously laying the groundwork for an impressive line-up of seven upcoming clinical trials slated for early 2024. These trials will involve brain stimulation, repurposed pharmacological medications and hormonal therapies and represent a pivotal step in our mission to bridge critical gaps in the understanding and treatment of eating disorders.  Recognising the urgency and gravity of the challenges faced by individuals impacted by eating disorders, our team has collaborated closely with leading experts, researchers, healthcare professionals and individuals with lived experience to design trials based on latest neurobiological research.

 

If you would like to donate to THRED, we would highly value your contribution. 

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LI-THRED IS REWRITING THE STORY FOR OVER 1 MILLION AUSTRALIANS WITH EATING DISORDERS

 Li-THRED  is investigating the science behind this debilitating disease, and changing the story for people with anorexia nervosa. Li-THRED will focus on three pillars: delivering new treatments, enhancing current treatments, and uncovering biological causes through a series of clinical trials.

Eating 

Disorders

Over one million Australians are living with an eating disorder, the most fatal of all mental health disorders, and over 75 per cent will never seek any form of treatment or support.

 

Current treatment focuses on the psychological factors behind eating disorders since they present obvious symptoms that are most easily understood. However, evidence shows that in addition to psychological factors (personality type, body image disturbances), eating disorders also develop due to biological changes (genes, RNA, proteins). 

Li-THRED Projects

Exploring Sodium Butyrate for Anorexia Nervosa


This study investigates the use of sodium butyrate, a supplement derived from butyric acid, to
potentially treat anorexia nervosa (AN). There is growing evidence to suggest that disruptions in gut microbiota may play a role in the development and maintenance of AN. Thus, sodium butyrate, which targets gut inflammation and impacts gene activity, may be a promising treatment. Overall, the trial explores the therapeutic effects of sodium butyrate in improving AN symptoms, providing insights into the gut microbiome’s role in AN treatment.

Investigating the Efficacy of Estradiol in Anorexia Nervosa Treatment

Estradiol is a hormone with the potential to improve mood, bone health, and appetite, which are all domains negatively impacted by anorexia nervosa.  Estradiol is especially effective when delivered through the skin via a transdermal patch. Accordingly, this clinical trial will compare the effect of an estradiol patch versus a placebo patch on anorexia nervosa symptoms in a sample of 50 participants with the illness. Overall, the trial of estradiol aims to improve psychological symptoms and body health in people with anorexia nervosa, as well as improving mood, cognition, and appetite.

 

Repurposed Pharmacological Treatments
 

Imbalances in brain chemicals and gut bacteria are often found in individuals with anorexia nervosa, and these disturbances potentially play an important role in the development and maintenance of the illness. Existing drugs target these processes – specifically memantine, brexpiprazole, and zinc – but have yet to be tested in people with anorexia nervosa. As such, four clinical trials are being launched to examine the effects of these repurposed medicines compared with placebo on anorexia nervosa symptoms in a sample of 125 participants. 

 

Recognising the lack of current pharmacological treatment for AN despite the widespread use of medicines in the treatment of most other psychiatric conditions, this study aims to investigate the safety and efficacy of these medications in treating AN.  This project will provide valuable insights into neurological underpinnings of the illness, opening new avenues for treatment.

Stimulant Effects on Anorexia Nervosa with Co-Existing ADHD

Recent research indicates a potential overlap between eating disorders and ADHD, suggesting that ADHD may contribute to the development of eating disorders. However, there’s a reluctance to use stimulant medications for ADHD in those with eating disorders due to their appetite-suppressing effects. This case series includes six participants with an active or remitted eating disorder, exploring how ADHD stimulant treatment impacts their eating disorder symptoms, with preliminary results demonstrating that stimulants could potentially improve, or at least do not exacerbate, eating disorder symptoms.

Since its inception, the THRED Research  team has laid the groundwork for seven innovative clinical trials to develop world-first, biologically-based treatments for anorexia nervosa.  Due to recruit participants in early 2024, these trials will involve targeted brain stimulation, repurposed pharmacological medications, and hormonal therapies.  The primary objective of these trials is to evaluate the effectiveness of these innovative treatments, with the potential to reduce eating disorder symptoms for participants.

CURRENT PROJECTS

TMS to treat Anorexia Nervosa

This clinical trial investigates the use of repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) in people who have Anorexia Nervosa (AN), to see if it might help improve their symptoms. rTMS is a non-invasive method of brain stimulation that involves the repeated application of magnetic pulses to your head via a ‘coil’. rTMS is an established treatment for depression which has been proven to work in numerous clinical trials. Few studies have looked into rTMS treatment for AN, but results from those have been promising.

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