Charity awards Oxford researcher £250k to understand how a stroke can cause dementia

14 October 2020

Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, has awarded almost £250,000 to Dr Yvonne Couch, for a new study at the University of Oxford. The study will see Dr Couch investigate how strokes can cause a type of dementia called vascular dementia.

There are over 850,000 people in the UK with dementia and around 8,500 in Oxfordshire alone. Vascular dementia is the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease and the early symptoms include memory loss, disorientation and problems with communication.

A stroke occurs when blood supply to a part of the brain is suddenly cut off and more than one in every five people who have a stroke go on to develop dementia. Lots of changes occur in the brain during and after a stroke. These include changes in the way blood vessels in the brain work, and Dr Couch is trying to understand these changes in more detail and why they increase the risk of developing dementia.

While Alzheimer’s Research UK estimates it could be facing a potential drop in income of up to 45% due to COVID-19, the charity is committed to funding science in the region. Alzheimer’s Research UK committed the funds to this project before COVID-19 hit, which is now able to start.

This funding will allow Dr Couch to investigate whether brain cells send out signals that change how blood vessels behave. She will look at whether these signals are delivered to blood vessels through tiny information packages called extracellular vesicles, and what these cells do to blood vessels.

By increasing our understanding of how the brain and blood vessels communicate after a stroke, Dr Couch hopes that she may find new clues as to how we can reduce the risk of dementia.

Oxford researcher, Yvonne Couch does research into vascular dementiaDr Yvonne Couch, from the University of Oxford, said:
“We have already found that the number of these extracellular vesicles in the blood increases after a stroke and that they can affect the function of other cells. By understanding more about how the brain sends out injury signals we may be able to generate new treatments to improve brain functions such as memory after a stroke.”

Dr Rosa Sancho, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“Dementia affects around 8,500 people in Oxford and nearly one million people across the UK. Research like this carried out by dementia experts is the only answer to a world free from the fear, harm and heartbreak of the condition.

“Alzheimer’s Research UK remains committed to funding the best science and Oxford has a strong research community. Funding research like this would not be possible without donations from our fantastic supporters. Now more than ever, dementia research needs our backing. Supporters can donate at alzres.uk/make-donation or by calling call 0300 111 5555.”