Research Projects

Developing a technique to unpick the complexities of Alzheimer’s disease

Awarded to:
Dr Afia Ali

Current award:

University College London

1 March 2022 - 30 November 2022

Full project name:

Developing a human-derived iPSC model to build neuronal circuits for Alzheimer’s disease research






Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, affecting around six in every 10 people with the condition in the UK. Researchers sometimes work to better understand Alzheimer’s by studying animals bred to develop specific features of the disease. While this is a valuable approach for many research questions, animals can’t perfectly replicate how the disease develops and progresses in people.

Researchers at the University College London are hoping to create a new way to study Alzheimer’s in the lab by taking stem cells from people living with different genetic types of dementia. Stem cells can be transformed into any cell type in the body, so researchers can use them to grow brain cells to study how they function and communicate.

While most stem cell research has involved one type of cell, this project will produce networks of different types of brain cell in arrangements that reflect more of the complexity of the human brain.

What will they do?

In this pilot project, Dr Afia Ali will lead her team in developing the technique needed to successfully grow stem cells from people living with rare genetic forms of Alzheimer’s disease. People with genetic forms are more likely to go on to develop the disease and will have the hallmark features such as amyloid protein build-up which damages our brain cells.

Her expertise in looking at how brain cells connect and communicate can then be used with this new model to understand how different cells in the brain react to amyloid build-up, and what processes are disrupted at different points in Alzheimer’s disease.

Her work has the potential to unlock the cascade of events in the brain that cause Alzheimer’s and create a new model to better understand and ultimately treat the disease in the future.

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Dementia is one of the world’s greatest challenges. It steals lives and leaves millions heartbroken. But we can change the future.