Edinburgh scientists secure £680k boost from UK’s leading dementia research charity

21 September 2018

Scientists in Edinburgh have received a £680,000 funding boost from Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity. The announcement of new funding comes on World Alzheimer’s Day and as Alzheimer’s Research UK pledges to commit a further £250 million to dementia research by 2025.

Jill fowler lab photo

Jill fowler lab photo

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of symptoms, like memory loss and thinking problems that are caused by physical diseases, most commonly Alzheimer’s disease. Currently 850,000 people in the UK are living with dementia, including over 70,000 people in Scotland alone.

The new funding sees Alzheimer’s Research UK support two leading scientists at the University of Edinburgh, as well as a cutting-edge piece of equipment that will help shed more light on the complex causes of dementia. This sophisticated new microscope system will allow dementia researchers throughout the University to zero in on key proteins involved in disease like Alzheimer’s and unlock new details about how they trigger damage to the brain.

In the first of the new projects, Dr Szu-Han Wang is working to understand and repair memory problems in mice with features of Alzheimer’s — work that will provide a vital platform for developing new ways to help people living with the disease.

In a second project, Dr Jill Fowler, who is also a passionate member of the Alzheimer’s Research UK Edinburgh Fundraising Group, is leading pioneering research into a protein that is thought to protect against damage caused by reduced blood flow in the brain.

Dr Jill Fowler said:

“Our brains rely on a constant supply of oxygen and glucose through the bloodstream. In Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, changes to blood flow in the brain can trigger the production of harmful molecules called free radicals, which cause damage to nerve cells. Our research shows that a protein called Nrf2 can activate antioxidant molecules that combat free radicals and limit damage to cells in the brain.

 “Not only will this new funding help us to understand more an aspect of the two most common causes of dementia, it will allow us to explore whether boosting Nrf2 holds promise as a way of treating these diseases.”

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

“Edinburgh is a world-leading dementia research centre and innovative studies at the University continue to provide vital insights into the causes of the condition. We are proud to support these innovative new projects, which are paving the way to new ways to help the 70,000 people in Scotland living with dementia.

“Alzheimer’s Research UK receives no government funding for the groundbreaking research we support, and it is only thanks to the generosity of our supporters that we are able to fund work like this.

“Dr Jill Fowler is one of a dedicated group of supporters in Edinburgh whose tireless efforts are making life-changing breakthroughs possible. If anyone is inspired and wants to get involved, contact Kyle Lockhart on [email protected]