Investigating how proteins passed between people may lead to a dementia-related disease
Dr Gargi Banerjee
MRC Prion Unit at UCL
1 June 2021 - 31 May 2024
Full project name:
Characterising iatrogenic cerebral amyloid angiopathy and its role in dementia
Research at University College London will investigate how past medical procedures may have transmitted proteins that build up in blood vessels in the brain and cause dementia.
Cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA) occurs when a protein known as amyloid builds up in the blood vessels in the brain. CAA can cause vascular dementia, but amyloid is also a key protein in Alzheimer’s disease. Over 90% of people with Alzheimer’s disease also have a build-up of amyloid in the blood vessels of the brain.
Recent evidence suggests that in a small number of people, CAA could potentially have been transmitted through a medical procedure that is no longer carried out. Illnesses caused by medical treatment are called iatrogenic.
The main medical procedure thought to lead to a risk of iatrogenic CAA was the injection of growth hormone donated by people when they died. This practice was stopped in 1985 but some people received this treatment in the past and may now be at risk of iatrogenic CAA. As a newly described disease, there is limited information about the number of people that may be affected or exactly how this disease spreads.
Using this Clinical Research Fellowship, Dr Gargi Banerjee will recruit 10 people considered at high risk of developing iatrogenic CAA. They will be invited for a full clinical assessment including blood tests, brain scans and cognitive tests. It is hoped that this will help build a better picture of when this disease occurs and improve our understanding of how it manifests in people.
Alongside her research in the clinic, Dr Banerjee will also study CAA in mice. She will investigate how CAA and Alzheimer’s disease differ in mice and how subtle changes in amyloid may drive these differences.
This Clinical Research Fellowship will provide vital information about a newly described disease that causes dementia and may also highlight important changes in clinical practise that may reduce future cases.