What happens in a dementia laboratory?

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By Dr Laura Phipps | Friday 28 February 2014

People often have a perception of scientists as wearing white coats and peering into test tubes. While this can in some cases be very close to real life, there are many different types of research taking place across the UK and dementia researchers come in many different guises.

Laboratory, office or clinic?


Dementia scientists can work in a typical laboratory setting, unravelling the molecular biology underpinning diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia with Lewy bodies. They can do this by studying flies and worms or using lasers to study clumps of protein thousands of times smaller than a pinhead.

Dementia researchers also work in offices, observing trends in public health or analysing medical data to search for patterns in diseases that cause dementia. Their work is highlighting risk factors for dementia and helping to shape public health campaigns.


But a large amount of research also takes place in hospitals and clinics, by researchers who learn hugely important lessons from working together with patients and carers. Giving blood samples, taking memory tests and having brain scans are all ways that patients can help in studies to tackle dementia.

Designing new treatments

Each of these different strands of research is uniquely valuable to defeating dementia and a concerted effort is what we need to tackle these diseases from every angle. Without understanding the basic molecular changes happening in Alzheimer’s, we can’t design new treatments. Without improving the accuracy of diagnosis, we can’t trial potential new treatments effectively and without understanding the symptoms and what causes them, we can’t help people live better with their illness.

Visit The Lab

To help you understand all the different strands of research we fund and why they are so important, we have created a virtual dementia lab. The Lab aims to open the doors on dementia research and show what our scientists are up to.


We hope it will give you a better understanding of what dementia research involves and the progress our scientists are making. Take a tour through our virtual laboratory and hospital environments to follow an idea through to a new treatment for dementia. It’s not easy, but our researchers are getting there step-by-step.

The Lab also links in with current news stories to help you put into context the headlines about dementia that you read in the newspapers or hear about on the news. We will also be using this blog to look at some of these stories in more detail, so check back or visit the news pages of our website for our expert reaction to breaking news stories.

We would love to hear what you think about The Lab. Leave us a comment and tell us your thoughts.

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About the author

Dr Laura Phipps