Research Projects

Decoding the genetics of Alzheimer’s disease

Copy of K Morgan Lab sitting

Awarded to:
Prof Kevin Morgan

Current award:
£334,621

Institution:
University of Nottingham

Dates:
1 September 2014 - 31 August 2018

Full project name:

Enabling high-throughput genomic approaches in Alzheimer’s disease

Diagnosis

Treatments

Understand

Risks

Symptoms

Researchers at the University of Nottingham are working to build a huge DNA resource to help dementia scientists unravel the genetics of dementia

There are many factors that can influence our risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, including aspects of our lifestyles like diet and exercise.

There are also a number of DNA differences or risk genes that can elevate our chances of developing the disease.

Scientists want to find more risk genes so that they can understand why some people develop Alzheimer’s while others don’t and learn more about the biological chain of events that leads to the disease.

The Alzheimer’s Research UK DNA bank has been instrumental in uncovering 21 known risk genes for Alzheimer’s and is an important resource for dementia researchers across the country.

This project will see scientists add more samples to the bank, but unlike in previous projects where DNA was extracted from blood samples, researchers will take DNA from brain tissue generously donated by people who have died with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Why is this important?

This project will provide researchers with a raft of information about the genetics underpinning different forms of dementia.

This, combined with the lifestyle information and knowledge about brain changes, will allow researchers to piece together the chain of events that lead to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

The more we learn about the triggers of Alzheimer’s, the greater our chances of finding a treatment that can halt nerve cell damage and make a real difference to the lives of people with dementia.

What will they do?

Brains for Dementia Research (BDR) is a joint initiative by Alzheimer’s Research UK and Alzheimer’s Society which asks people to consider donating their brain after they have died.

The BDR scheme is particularly valuable as once someone signs up to donate their brain, they also agree to take part in annual memory and thinking tests and provide information about their lifestyle and medical history.

This project will make use of the valuable resource, combining the information gained from BDR with the genetic expertise of researchers running the Alzheimer’s Research UK DNA bank.

Researchers will extract DNA from the donated brain samples and use state of the art DNA sequencing technology to look for a variety of dementia risk genes.

Adding this genetic and lifestyle information to the Alzheimer’s Research UK DNA bank will make it an even more valuable resource for dementia researchers across the country.

Progress update

The aim for the first year of the study was to gather all the brain samples available through BDR and submit them for DNA sequencing.

Preparation of first group of 400 has been completed and been sent for sequencing; now the team is preparing the DNA for their second group of 100 samples.

Prof Morgan and his team also believe they can now add more samples to the study, so plan to analyse brain tissue and blood donated through BDR in 2015 too.

This rapid progress, together with recent advances in technology, mean that the team now hopes to process and analyse double the number of samples they had originally planned for.

Prof Morgan and his team are currently collecting and preparing samples for analysis using a gene ‘chip’ – powerful technology that allows them to search for known genetic risk signatures.

Given the team is projected to be ahead of their 5-year schedule, they now hope to have time to analyse more samples in the Alzheimer’s Research UK DNA bank, allowing them to explore any genetic changes in more detail.

The more samples the team can process, the more power they put behind these vital studies.

How large DNA banks help us to make breakthroughs possible

Find out more about why DNA banks are so useful for dementia research.

A scientist holding a plastic model of a molecule