Cardiff charity supports dementia scientists in city with £168k funding boost

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By Philip Tubby | Wednesday 22 March 2017

The Cardiff-based Hodge Foundation has today announced a generous gift of £168,000 to Alzheimer’s Research UK to support pioneering dementia research at Cardiff University.

Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading research charity, will use the funding to support scientists Dr Adele Pryce Roberts and Prof Lesley Jones to investigate a key genetic risk factor involved in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Late-onset Alzheimer’s is the most common form of Alzheimer’s, affecting people over the age of 65. It is caused by a mixture of risk factors including age and lifestyle, but genetics also plays a role in the disease. Scientists now know that a person’s individual genetic make-up can be important in determining their risk of developing the disease and understanding these genes and how they work is crucial to unlocking new ways to treat Alzheimer’s.

So far scientists have identified over twenty different genes that are found to be altered in people with Alzheimer’s. One of these genes is called APOE4 and it is currently the strongest known genetic risk factor for the disease. While APOE4 produces a protein that keeps our brain cells healthy and communicating with one another, researchers are still trying to understand why the APOE4 gene can make people more susceptible to developing Alzheimer’s.

The funding boost from Alzheimer’s Research UK and the Hodge Foundation will see Dr Adele Pryce Roberts and Prof Lesley Jones using cutting-edge equipment, as well as utilising the latest stem cell and genetic techniques to address this question. Their hope is to determine how APOE4 drives the breakdown of communication between nerve cells and other cells in the brain, which results in the devastating symptoms experienced by people with the disease. This new state-of-the-art equipment will also be used to support further dementia research being undertaken by the team at Cardiff University.

Dr Adele Pryce Roberts, Alzheimer’s Research UK Clinical Research Fellow at Cardiff University, said:

“We are extremely thankful to Alzheimer’s Research UK and the Hodge Foundation for their generous support of our research project, which will transform how we study the genetics underlying Alzheimer’s disease. At the moment there are only a few treatments available to people with Alzheimer’s, and those available only treat the symptoms of the disease. This investment will enable us to gain more knowledge on the role of the APOE4 risk gene in Alzheimer’s, which we hope will open the door to new drug targets for the treatment of this devastating disease.”

Jonathan Hodge, Hodge Foundation Trustee, said:

“The Hodge Foundation is proud to be supporting our local research community at Cardiff University, which is a pioneering centre for dementia research. Dementia is one of the greatest health challenges of our generation, and with over 850,000 people in the UK living with the condition. Research has the power to answer vital questions in health, and dementia is an area where we urgently need to find treatments to prevent or slow down the progression of the condition and change people’s lives for the better.”

Dr Rosa Sancho, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“We welcome this donation by the Hodge Foundation, which will play a key part in boosting this important area of research into the role of genetics in dementia. Studies like this are crucial in identifying the underlying driving forces of Alzheimer’s, and any evidence gathered from this project will help scientists build a bigger picture of the condition and take steps towards tackling it.”

“Alzheimer’s Research UK is committed to supporting research that aims to find ways to slow down or halt the progression of the diseases that cause dementia. By understanding the links between APOE4 and Alzheimer’s, this research could help scientists to shape future preventative approaches or drug treatments for the disease.”

About the author

Philip Tubby