Early career dementia researcher in Newcastle gets £210K charity boost


By Ed Pinches | Tuesday 18 May 2021

Early career dementia researcher, Dr Lauren Walker at Newcastle University has received a £210,000 funding boost from Alzheimer’s Research UK.

It is made possible by long term supporter of the charity, Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation.

The announcement of new funding from the UK’s leading dementia research charity comes during Dementia Action Week (17 – 23 May) as part of a wave of new funding to support researchers hit hardest by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

What is Dementia Action Week?

The week is dedicated to raising awareness of dementia and encouraging people to join efforts to bring about a future free from the fear, harm, and heartbreak of the condition.

There are 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia, a condition caused by several different diseases. This includes 100,000 people who have dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB).

What is dementia with Lewy bodies?

DLB involves complex symptoms. These can include memory and thinking problems like those caused by Alzheimer’s disease, and movement problems like those in Parkinson’s disease.

While DLB is not as well-known as diseases like Alzheimer’s, it has an enormous impact on people’s lives. The condition came to the attention of the wider public in 2016 when it was revealed that the actor and comedian, Robin Williams had been living with DLB.

DLB involves toxic clumps of a protein called alpha-synuclein building up within brain cells. However, it is common for those with the disease to have additional toxic proteins in their brain, including tau, a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

How this research in Newcastle will help

Dr Lauren Walker from Newcastle University will work with human brain tissue to identify which types of protein appear same brain cells and how these relate to the symptoms that people with DLB experience. She will look closely to determine whether the early appearance of tau masks symptoms associated with DLB.

Speaking about her project, Dr Lauren Walker, said:

“Getting the backing of funders like Alzheimer’s Research UK is such an important boost to early career researchers like me. COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on people with dementia, but it is also making it difficult for early-career researchers who are working to change the narrative for those with the condition. We know research will have the answer and this funding allows me to progress our understanding of how the symptoms of DLB develop and could improve diagnosis of the condition.”

This funding made possible by Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation, is part of the organisations longer-term partnership with Alzheimer’s Research UK, which has amounted to more than £5 million overall and over £800,000 for dementia research at Newcastle University.

What our Director of Research said

Dr Susan Kohlhaas, from Alzheimer’s Research UK said:

“Over 34,000 people living in the North East have dementia and we must continue to invest in life-changing research into the condition. We can only fund pioneering research like this project in Newcastle thanks to charitable donations from our incredible supporters and organisations like Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation. They carry out amazing feats of fundraising both locally and nationally, which helps us fund vital research in the region.

“Dementia Action Week is about doing something, which could make a real difference. We saw with COVID-19 that volunteers make a huge difference in accelerating research and will be critical in our effort to tackle dementia.

“Our Dementia Research Infoline is open to those wanting to find out more about this project, dementia with Lewy bodies, or register their interest in taking part in dementia studies. Our team have already handled over 25,000 enquiries and are here to help you. Ring us today on 0300 111 5111 or email us at infoline@alzheimersresearchuk.org.”


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About the author

Ed Pinches