Good news – Cambridge dementia researchers head back into lab in search for breakthroughs


By Ed Pinches | Monday 22 June 2020

Today (Monday 22 June) some dementia researchers funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK will head back into the lab at the University of Cambridge, while ensuring they comply with the strict government guidelines on social distancing.

While resourceful scientists funded by the Abington-based charity were still managing to do some work in innovative ways wherever possible from home, this return marks a change in pace with scientists physically allowed back in the lab to resume their pioneering research.

Almost one million people in the UK are living with dementia, and over half of us know someone affected – in Cambridgeshire alone 11,000 people live with the condition.

People with dementia experience memory loss, confusion, personality changes and gradually lose the ability to manage daily life. And sadly, it has become clear that people with dementia are more at risk of experiencing severe effects of COVID-19. Official figures now show that a quarter of people who have died with COVID-19 in England and Wales also had dementia.

Twelve researchers from Prof Michael Coleman’s lab at the University of Cambridge will work on a shift pattern in order to maintain social distancing and avoid peak commuting times. The first shift will start from 6.30am, lasting till 2pm and the day’s second shift will start at 3pm and finish at 10.30pm.

Research won’t return to 100% capacity for some time but this return will allow researchers back to salvage experiments after being unable to access the lab for three months.

With only limited treatment options available for people who develop dementia, Prof Coleman’s work funded by the UK’s leading dementia research charity aims to shed more light on the cellular processes going awry in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia.

Speaking about the return to the lab, Prof Michael Coleman from the University of Cambridge, said:
“Just as research is vital in the fight against COVID-19, we know that research will help us to overcome dementia. We are determined to recover what we can from experiments that were interrupted at the start of lockdown.

“Dementia research has been hit hard and while we won’t be at full strength for a while we will also look to start new experiments to complete our projects. We need to make sure we work safely to help avoid vital work like this stalling again as COVID-19 is still out there and as hungry as ever.

“Part of this return to work means we’ve held a virtual lab ‘retreat’ to draw a line under the lockdown period, discussing what we’ve learned, acknowledging what didn’t work so well, but also identifying the new opportunities and making sure we make the most of the new normal over the next few months.”

Dr Rosa Sancho, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“Dementia affects 11,000 people in Cambridgeshire, and nearly one million people across the UK. Research carried out by dementia experts like Prof Coleman is the only answer to a world free of the fear, harm and heartbreak of the condition.

“Alzheimer’s Research UK estimates it could be facing a potential drop in income due to COVID-19 of up to 45%, and dementia research has been hit hard by the pandemic. While all researchers will still have challenges to face, this physical return to work gives them and everyone affected by dementia hope that we will see progress in dementia research continue.

“Our funding for research like this would not be possible without donations from our fantastic supporters. Now more than ever, dementia research needs our backing. Anyone can donate to help dementia research regain momentum at or by calling call 0300 111 5555.”


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Ed Pinches