Leading charity gives funding boost for dementia research in Sheffield

21 September 2021

Today, Alzheimer’s Research UK has announced support for pioneering dementia research at the University of Sheffield. The funding, worth £15,000, will allow researchers to investigate genetic changes linked to a rarer form of the condition called frontotemporal dementia (FTD). The news comes on World Alzheimer’s Day, as the UK’s leading dementia research charity also released findings from the second wave of its Dementia Attitudes Monitor, one of the most comprehensive surveys of public perceptions into dementia and research.

According to polling more than half* (52%) of UK adults know someone who has been diagnosed with dementia – most often a grandparent (17%) or parent (13%). The Monitor includes data from 2,259 interviews conducted by Ipsos MORI between 18 June and 19 July 2021 and was funded by The Perfume Shop.

Dementia is the umbrella term given to a group of symptoms and it has a number of causes. While many people have heard of Alzheimer’s disease, FTD is a relatively rare form of dementia.

FTD is thought to account for around one in 20 dementia cases. It encompasses a range of different conditions that can affect people in very different ways, from changes in personality to problems with speech.

Around 10% of FTD cases are thought to be passed down in families. The most common cause of inherited FTD is a fault in a gene called C9orf72. This mutation causes a faulty protein to build up in the brain, ultimately leading to damage to nerve cells. The new £15K of funding will allow Dr Ryan West and his team from University of Sheffield to use an innovative approach to identify the genetic changes in brains containing these toxic protein clumps.

Dr Ryan West at the University of Sheffield, said:

“The genetic C9orf72 mutation is thought to be responsible for around 8% of all FTD cases, making it an important target for potential new treatments. Studying the effect of genetic changes in the brain is extremely challenging, but by studying fruit flies with features of FTD, we aim to further understand the processes that lead to loss of nerve cells in people.

“Fruit flies are well suited for this type of study, as around 75% of the disease-causing genes in people are also found in flies. Their short life span makes it easy for us to measure how activity of certain genes changes over time as they age. We will use cutting edge techniques to compare the genes that are switched on and off in flies with features of FTD and look for clues to inform research into future treatments.”

Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

Sara comments on morning sleep and dementia“With frontotemporal dementia being the second most common cause of dementia in under 65s, and with no treatment to slow or stop it, it is vital that we invest in pioneering studies like this one at the University of Sheffield. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters in Sheffield and across South Yorkshire, we are able to continue to fund research in the region and drive progress towards new treatments for people living with the disease.

“If anyone wants more information about this project, or would like to support dementia research by volunteering to take part in research studies, they can call Alzheimer’s Research UK on 0300 111 5 111 or email [email protected]