Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner discovered how the Alzheimer’s Research UK Stem Cell Research Centre is playing a key role in the fight against dementia when he visited the facility today.
The £2m centre, based at the Gurdon Institute at the University of Cambridge, was opened this year by the Great Abington-based charity and brings together leading stem cell researchers from the University of Cambridge and UCL (University College London). Scientists at the centre are using groundbreaking techniques to unravel the causes of Alzheimer’s disease and test potential new treatments.
Alzheimer’s, the most common cause of dementia, leads to the loss of brain cells and impairs the brain’s ability to function properly. Early symptoms include problems with memory and thinking, but as the disease progresses, physical functions such as walking and even swallowing can be affected. There are currently no treatments capable of stopping or slowing the disease, and scientists at the Stem Cell Research Centre, backed by the UK’s leading dementia research charity, are working to address this problem.
During a tour of the centre, Mr Zeichner learned how skin cells donated by volunteers with different forms of the disease play a crucial role in this research. Scientists at the centre transform these cells into networks of functioning nerve cells, allowing them to replicate the disease in a dish. These cells can then be used to study how the disease develops, as well as to screen compounds that may help fight the disease.
Dr Rick Livesey, who leads the work at the Stem Cell Research Centre, said:
“We were delighted to welcome Mr Zeichner to learn more about the vital work being carried out at the Stem Cell Research Centre. The techniques we are using were pioneered right here in Cambridge by Nobel Prize-winner Sir John Gurdon, whose work has revolutionised our ability to study diseases like Alzheimer’s. By recreating the disease in the laboratory in this way, we have already been able to shed new light on its causes, and have an invaluable tool to help identify which potential new treatments should be taken forward for further testing.”
Mr Zeichner said:
“It’s fantastic to be able to find out more about this pioneering work which is playing such an important part in the fight against dementia. Cambridge has long been at the forefront of scientific research, and the Stem Cell Research Centre is a shining example of this cutting-edge innovation. It’s great to see Alzheimer’s Research UK backing this and other crucial research efforts across the UK, and we also need an increase in Government funding for research to help our scientists make the strides forward that are needed.”
Dr Matthew Norton, Head of Public Affairs at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“The Stem Cell Research Centre is just one of many groundbreaking initiatives Alzheimer’s Research UK is funding, and we were delighted to be able to show Mr Zeichner how the money we raise is being put to work. With 850,000 people currently living with dementia in the UK, including over 8,000 people in Cambridgeshire alone, the need for effective treatments and preventions for the condition has never been more urgent. Dementia is our greatest medical challenge, and it will take all of us – charities, Government and industry – to tackle it.”