Funding boost for Cambridge dementia research from leading local charity

20 September 2018

Leading scientists at the University of Cambridge are set to benefit from a £540,000 funding boost from Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity. The new funding comes ahead of World Alzheimer’s Day, and as Cambridgeshire-based Alzheimer’s Research UK pledges to commit a further £250 million to dementia research by 2025 with the launch of a new campaign – Make breakthroughs possible.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and is one of the greatest challenges facing modern medicine. Currently 850,000 people in the UK are living with dementia including over 11,000 people in Cambridgeshire alone. There are no treatments to stop or slow the diseases that cause dementia, and without new breakthroughs it is estimated that one in three people born this year will develop some form dementia in their lifetime.

The charity is today launching a new campaign and film, voiced by Game of Thrones star Lena Headey and directed by award-winning Director Aoife McArdle. The thought-provoking film sends the hopeful message that, in the same way this instinct has led us to overcome many of our most intractable diseases, through research we can make similar life-changing breakthroughs possible for the diseases that cause dementia. To mark the release, the charity has pledged its largest ever commitment to dementia research.

Funding from Alzheimer’s Research UK is now allowing expert dementia researchers in Cambridge to work to understand the different causes of dementia and help bring about new life changing treatments. This boost to Cambridge scientists includes funding for two new dementia research projects and one state-of-the-art piece of equipment:

  • £340,000 awarded to Prof Michael Coleman to investigate a new research technique to shed more light in the cellular processes going awry in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • A cutting-edge £150,000 scanner to capture highly detailed brain images.
  • A £50,000 study led by Dr Leonidas Chouliaras focussing on how molecular switches, which can turn genes off or on, contribute to changes to the brain in dementia with Lewy bodies.

Prof Michael Coleman, who will head up the £340,000 project at the University of Cambridge, said:

“Researchers around the world are working to better understand the molecular changes involved in Alzheimer’s— to reveal how they damage nerve cells in the brain and cause the symptoms that have such a big impact on people’s lives. We can’t directly study Alzheimer’s processes as they develop inside a person’s brain, but by growing nerve cells in a dish in the lab we have been able to examine key cellular details and make critical discoveries about the disease.

“With this new funding from Alzheimer’s Research UK, we are pioneering a new technique for lab-based research that allows us to study all the different types of brain cell that play a role in Alzheimer’s, and explore how they interact in intricate 3D arrangements that reflect the complex environment of the brain. Not only will this allow us to gain a more complete understanding of the multiple biological processes involved in Alzheimer’s, but it also presents an effective way of testing desperately-needed new drugs for the disease.”

By developing an improved modelling method, it will help us better understand the causes of Alzheimer’s disease and provide a platform to help deliver new treatments.

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

“We are dedicated to funding the best minds and forging the most effective partnerships that will bring about new ways to help people with dementia as soon as possible, so we are very glad to be supporting this vital research at the University of Cambridge. With over 11,000 people living with dementia in Cambridgeshire alone, and with very few effective treatments currently available, we must continue to invest in research that is making new breakthroughs possible.

“We don’t receive any government funding for research and this work is only going ahead thanks to the tireless work and generosity of our supporters.”