Sheffield students take to the stage at UK’s largest dementia research conference

Alzheimers-research-UK-Oxford-045-scaled-2
Alzheimers-research-UK-Oxford-045-scaled-2

By Quang Tran | Monday 28 February 2022

Two early career researchers from Sheffield will present their findings at the UK’s leading dementia research charity annual research conference in Brighton this week.

From the 28 February to 2 March, scientists across a range of disciplines will share their findings to help progress dementia research.

Dementia is caused by a number of diseases and is a leading cause of death in the UK. It affects nearly one million people around the country and just over 7,000 in Sheffield alone.

Taghreed Almansouri and Yung Jen Ryan Thang are two early career researchers presenting their work at the Brighton Centre with an audience of nearly 600 researchers, the majority of whom will be gathering in person for the first time since 2019.

Dr Susan Kohlhaas, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“Holding our annual research conference again in person this year marks a key moment in dementia research. While dementia research has made real progress over the last decade, COVID-19 had a devastating impact, not only on people with dementia, their families and carers, but also severely disrupting research.

“Early career researchers have been acutely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and as part of our work to bring about life-changing breakthroughs for people with dementia, we are prioritising support of these scientists to ensure we have the future research leaders of tomorrow.

“It’s fantastic to see talented young researchers in Sheffield taking on our greatest medical challenge, producing such high-quality research and sharing their findings on such an important platform.”

Taghreed Almansouri is a PhD student from the University of Sheffield researching vascular dementia, which affects 2 in every 10 people living with dementia.

She presents her research findings on a specialised cell in our brains called microglia, which helps protect it from damage. As the brain ages, areas of damage natural appear, and in these regions microglia can act differently.

Miss Almansouri has uncovered the protective role of microglia in these damaged areas, but this wasn’t seen in the healthy brain areas surrounding it. These findings are vital in understanding how damage spreads in vascular dementia, and how new treatments can be developed to target this.

Taghreed Almansouri from the University of Sheffield said:

“I am very excited to have the opportunity to share my research at the Alzheimer’s Research UK Annual Conference and speak alongside experts in the field. I am investigating how the brain gets damaged with age and how our brain’s immune cells change their behaviour as we get older.

“My research has the ability to uncover new treatment targets that could change the narrative for people living with dementia.”

Yung Jen Ryan Thang from the University of Sheffield Medical School is investigating the links between infections and cognitive decline in people living with Alzheimer’s disease. He has found that neutrophils – cells in our body that fight off infections – can cross into the brain and cause damage in people living with Alzheimer’s, but this wasn’t seen in people without the disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia and still needs research to understand the complexities of the disease. Mr Thang’s work will help us understand how our body’s natural defences can be involved in Alzheimer’s and how this can be altered with further research.

Yung Jen Ryan Thang from the University of Sheffield Medical School said:

“My work looks at neutrophils, specialised cells that are the body’s first line of defence against infection. I have found that in Alzheimer’s disease damaging substances from neutrophils can enter the brain, and that this can have knock on effects.

“I’m excited to present this data at the Alzheimer’s Research UK conference as these findings may help to explain why symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease get worse during infection.”

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Quang Tran