Research Projects

How does the biggest risk gene for Alzheimer’s disease affect brain cells?

Awarded to:
Dr HK Irundika Dias

Current award:

Aston University

1 November 2021 - 30 April 2023

Full project name:

Oxylipid accumulation in brain cells: the influence of ApoE genotype






Researchers at Aston University are investigating how the ApoE4 risk gene for Alzheimer’s disease affects fat production in brain cells.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for around sixty percent of dementia cases in the UK. The risk of developing Alzheimer’s depends on multiple genetic and environmental factors, such as diet and exercise.

ApoE4 is the biggest risk gene for developing Alzheimer’s. People with ApoE4 have a significantly higher risk of developing the disease, although the reasons behind this are still unclear.

In this Pilot Project, Dr Irundika Dias from Aston University is investigating how the ApoE4 risk gene affects production of fatty molecules such as cholesterol in brain cells. Dr Dias’ research aims to understand how these fatty molecules affect brain cell function, perhaps leading to the development of the disease.

Dr Dias will compare the different types of fatty molecules produced in brain cells with or without the ApoE4 risk gene. Her experiments will also measure the activity of mitochondria, which are structures that provide brain cells with energy. This will determine the effects of having the ApoE4 risk gene on the fatty molecules produced by brain cells and how this affects cell function.

By knowing more about how the ApoE4 risk gene changes the fatty molecules in brain cells, the team expect to be able to understand how to improve brain cell function through specific drugs or nutrient combinations. This could pave the way to understanding how we can mitigate the risk of Alzheimer’s posed by the ApoE4 gene.

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