The Alzheimer’s Research UK Stem Cell Research Centre in Cambridge has been formally opened today by Nobel-prize winning researcher Prof Sir John Gurdon. The Centre, based at the Gurdon Institute on Tennis Court Road unites stem cell researchers from the University of Cambridge and scientists at University College London (UCL) with the aim of unravelling the causes of Alzheimer’s disease and testing new treatments. The £2m Centre has been funded by Great Abington-based charity Alzheimer’s Research UK thanks to generous support from the Alborada Trust.
Alzheimer’s Research UK is the UK’s leading dementia research charity and currently funds more than £26m of groundbreaking science across the UK. The Stem Cell Research Centre was one of a suite of new initiatives from the charity announced by David Cameron at the G8 Dementia Summit in London in 2014.
The Centre will build on Nobel Prize-winning stem cell research pioneered by Prof Sir John Gurdon in Cambridge, which allows scientists to rewind the clock on adult human skin cells and turn them into any other cell in the body. The technique is allowing the team to turn skin cells donated by patients with Alzheimer’s disease into working brain cells that they can study in the laboratory.
Dr Rick Livesey, who leads the work at the Stem Cell Research Centre in Cambridge, said:
“The stem cell techniques developed here in Cambridge have revolutionised how we can study diseases like Alzheimer’s, where getting access to living human brain cells to study is such a challenge. The Stem Cell Research Centre will allow us to collaborate with researchers at UCL treating patients and to use samples given by those patients to study the disease in minute detail in the dish. We hope that our research will not only shed light on some of the key changes happening in the disease but provide a swift and streamlined tool for screening potential new Alzheimer’s treatments.”
“We’re incredibly grateful to Alzheimer’s Research UK and the Alborada Trust for investing in this important area of dementia research. We’re honoured to have the Centre opened by Prof Sir John Gurdon, whose advances in this field have left a lasting legacy for medical research.”
Work has already been getting underway at the Stem Cell Research Centre, where experienced new post-doctoral researchers have come on board to lead important areas of work and the team is building up the core facilities and manpower they need for this technically-demanding work. Last month, the team announced important findings relating to the biology driving rare genetic forms of Alzheimer’s and plan to build on that work over the coming months.
Ian Wilson, Director at Alzheimer’s Research UK, who was at the opening today along with members of the Alborada Trust, said:
“Despite the condition being in the headlines more than ever in recent years, funding for dementia research remains on the back foot compared to other health conditions. Alzheimer’s Research UK is committed to funding cutting-edge research that will help us unravel the complexities of Alzheimer’s disease and reveal insights that will take us closer to effective new treatments. We’re proud to be funding this ambitious initiative here in Cambridge, which is recognised as one of the world’s powerhouses of biomedical research, and grateful to the Alborada Trust for helping to make it possible.”
Dementia affects 850,000 people in the UK and is now the most feared condition in the over 55s. The condition costs the UK economy £24bn a year but yet funding for dementia research only accounts for around 3% of the government’s research budget.