Research Projects

Identifying an inflammatory signature in blood to predict the onset of Alzheimer’s disease


Awarded to:
Prof Katie Lunnon

Current award:

University of Exeter

1 May 2019 - 30 April 2022

Full project name:

Stratified Medicine Strategies with an Inflammatory Signature Against Alzheimer’s Disease" (SMashIng-AD)






Researchers at the University of Exeter will look for a genetic signature in the blood of people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which they hope will help predict if people go on to develop dementia 5 years later.

One group of people who are at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s are those with mild cognitive impairment or MCI. While many people notice a natural decline in memory and thinking as they get older, people with MCI experience difficulties that are greater than expected for their age. However, unlike dementia, these difficulties tend not to get in the way of a person’s day-to-day life.

MCI can be caused by a range of existing conditions and may or may not get worse. In 100 people living with MCI, about 10 to 15 will develop dementia each year. Now Prof Katie Lunnon at the University Exeter wants to investigate this group of people further in a major project worth £280,000. She thinks heightened levels of inflammation in blood may be the key to understanding why some people with MCI go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Finding a ‘signature’ in the blood that helps predict if someone will develop Alzheimer’s could have implications for clinical trials of new treatments for the disease. Tests like this could mean there is a reduction in the number of people needed in trials.  This would considerably reduce the costs and time it takes to run clinical trials. This ambitious project also has a focus on drug discovery, which is critical as we search for the first life-changing dementia treatment.

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