Research Projects

Are some nerve cells more susceptible than other to damage in dementia with Lewy bodies?


Awarded to:
Prof. Johannes Attems

Current award:

Newcastle University

1 September 2017 - 31 October 2017

Full project name:

Neuronal vulnerability to Lewy body pathology






Researchers at Newcastle University are investigating why some nerve cells are more susceptible than others to damage in dementia with Lewy bodies.

Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is caused by the build-up of a protein called alpha-synuclein into structures called Lewy bodies.

Scientists have spotted that Lewy bodies are not seen in some types of nerve cells, suggesting that these nerve cells may be protected or resistant to this build-up process.

In this project, Prof Johannes Attems’s team will try to pinpoint key differences between different nerve cell types, with the hope this may reveal potential ways to stop the build-up on alpha-synuclein in DLB.

Why is this important?

Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is a devastating disease affecting over 100,000 people in the UK.

However, researchers don’t fully understand the biological chain of events that underlie DLB, and there is, as yet, no treatment that can stop or slow the spread of the disease through the brain.

Studies in mice have shown that there are key differences between different nerve cell types in how susceptible they are to the build-up of alpha-synuclein, but we don’t know whether this holds true in people.

Identifying factors that could be protecting some nerve cells could pave the way for new ways to tackle DLB.

What will they do?

The team will use brain tissue donated by people who died from dementia with Lewy bodies and isolate specific nerve cell populations.

They will then examine some of the key culprits in DLB including alpha-synuclein, amyloid and tau, seeing whether there are differences in how these genes are regulated and if this leads to more or less of these proteins within nerve cells.

As this work has been done in rodents before, the team can compare whether these results mirror what is seen in people.

Dementia with Lewy bodies

Dementia with Lewy bodies is the third most common cause of dementia.