Pioneering studies in Exeter funded by leading dementia research charity
22 May 2018
Researchers in Exeter have received a £50,000 funding boost for pioneering dementia research in the city. The announcement of this new funding comes during Dementia Action Week, a national campaign aimed at raising awareness of dementia and encouraging people to get involved with efforts to help people living with the disease.
Dementia is the name given to a group of symptoms that are caused by physical diseases that damage the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for around two thirds of all cases. Research has overcome other physical diseases and scientists across the world are working hard to power breakthroughs that will change the lives of people with dementia.
Genes play a part in dictating a person’s risk of developing one of diseases that cause dementia and while our genetic make-up can’t be changed, scientists have come to understand that there are factors that can alter the effects of our genes. Chemical tags can attach to sections of DNA and affect whether a particular gene is switched on or off, and pioneering research at the University of Exeter has revealed changes to this process in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.
This evidence comes from samples of whole-brain tissue, but the brain is made up of different kinds of cells and the effect of these chemical tags is thought to vary between them. In an ambitious new project funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK, Dr Emma Dempster will develop a method of isolating particular cell types and measuring the effect of these genetic switches in more detail than ever before.
Dr Emma Dempster who is leading the work, said:
“There are already cancer drugs that work by targeting the activity of these chemical tags, and Alzheimer’s drugs that work in a similar way could potentially have a huge impact on people’s lives. This new funding from Alzheimer’s Research UK will allow us to reveal more about the role of this process in Alzheimer’s and help us to account for the complex composition of the brain as we work to translate our interesting scientific findings into new ways to help people affected by the disease.”
Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research of Alzheimer’s Research UK said:
“There are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, including 87,000 in the South West, and as we are all living longer, this number is set to rise. While age is a big risk factor for dementia, it is not a normal part of ageing. Dementia is the result of physical changes to the brain caused by diseases like Alzheimer’s and understanding the complex processes that contribute to the disease is crucial in the hunt for new treatments.
“Exeter University is leading the world in this area of research, and we are delighted to be funding this pioneering project. Alzheimer’s Research UK receives no government funding for the research we support and it is only thanks to the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to fund vital dementia research.”
“There are a wide range of dementia studies underway in the South West and many of them rely on members of the public participating in research. From taking part in memory tests or filling out questionnaires, to providing blood samples or having a brain scan, there are many different ways people with and without dementia can get involved in research. Anyone who would like to take action to support dementia research by volunteering to take part in a study can find out more by calling Alzheimer’s Research UK on 0300 111 5 111 or by visiting www.joindementiaresearch.org”