Oxford researcher conquers 100km trek for Alzheimer’s Research UK

Posted on 27th September 2016

An Oxford scientist has completed a gruelling non-stop 100km trek to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity.

Francesca Nicholls, who works at the charity’s Oxford Drug Discovery Institute, was one of dozens of people taking part in Race the Tide this month, a 30-hour endurance event along the spectacularly beautiful St Cuthbert’s way in Northumbria. Along the way she raised nearly £1,500 for pioneering dementia research.

Race the Tide covered a route stretching from Melrose in the Scottish Borders to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne off the Northumberland coast. Francesca and her fellow walkers had 30 hours to complete the 100km challenge before the finishing point was cut off by the incoming tide, walking through the night to reach the finish line.Francesca Nicholls RTT

Francesca, 31, was inspired to sign up for the challenge after seeing first-hand the research supported by the charity. A scientist at the Alzheimer’s Research UK Oxford Drug Discovery Institute – which was set up last year to help fast-track the development of new dementia treatments – she knows only too well how vital funding for dementia research is. Francesca and her team are using skin or hair cells donated by people with Alzheimer’s disease that have been transformed into stem cells – cells which can then be turned into any type of cell in the body. By turning these cells into working nerve cells, the team hope to use these as a model to test potential new treatments that could keep nerve cells healthy and functional.

She said:

“I love working at the Drug Discovery Institute and seeing the charity’s funding being put to work. They’ve hired some fantastic people and it’s a really exciting atmosphere where everyone is pulling together to apply the best research techniques to this problem. I’m passionate about finding effective treatments for people with dementia, but since working here I’ve become acutely aware of how much funding is needed, and the fact that the money Alzheimer’s Research UK puts in comes from donations.

“I expected the challenge to be difficult, but it was a lot tougher than any of us had anticipated. I had thought walking through the night would be the worst part, but it was the last few kilometres that were the hardest, as the further we walked the more we struggled with the pain and blisters. By the end, many of us were using our trekking poles almost as crutches! But it was a really good atmosphere and we helped to keep each other’s spirits up – and my friends at home took it in shifts through the night to send my funny messages on Facebook to keep me going, which really helped.

“I’m delighted to have raised so much for Alzheimer’s Research UK: people have been really generous, and I’m sure that’s because so many people are affected by dementia. A lot of people I walked with had first-hand experience of dementia, and being able to learn more about the impact of the condition on their families really brought home to me the end goal of the research we’re doing.”

Jade Rolph of Alzheimer’s Research UK said:

“We couldn’t be more grateful to Francesca for taking on this immense challenge. The money raised will be able to help provide vital equipment and resources for our scientists, bringing new treatments and preventions for dementia ever closer. With 850,000 people currently living with dementia in the UK, including more than 8,000 people in Oxfordshire alone, the need for research to defeat the condition has never been more urgent. Scientists like Francesca are leading the way in the search for new treatments, but we rely on the public to be able to fund this work. It’s thanks to our wonderful supporters that we’re able to continue our pioneering research.”

To add to Francesca’s fundraising total, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/FrancescaJNicholls or to learn more about Alzheimer’s Research UK’s work, visit www.alzheimersresearchuk.org or call 0300 111 5555.

Posted in Fundraising news