Research Projects

Understanding how the brain’s immune cells play a role in familial British dementia.

Awarded to:
Prof Selina Wray

Current award:

University College London

1 October 2023 - 30 September 2027

Full project name:

Microglia as the drivers of pathology and disease in familial British dementia






Dementia is a term used to describe a group of symptoms including memory loss and changes to behaviour. It can be caused by different diseases such as Alzheimer’s but also rarer genetic forms.

In rare cases, changes to a gene can lead to disruptions to nerve cells in the brain. This disruption causes cells to become damage and die.

Researchers have been investigating why nerve cells die in diseases that cause dementia, with evidence pointing towards a role for immune cells.

Specific immune cells called microglia protect the brain by breaking down toxic proteins. In Alzheimer’s disease the microglia stop working properly and instead damage nerve cells.

A new PhD project being supervised by Prof Selina Wray will investigate a rare genetic form of dementia called familial British dementia. This disease is caused by a toxic protein called ABri. Earlier results from Prof Wray’s group have found for the first time that microglia produce the ABri protein.

The student will carry out the project by growing microglia and nerve cells in the lab to model this rare form of dementia. Then they will investigate how nerve cells respond to this toxic ABri and how it causes cell death.

The results from this PhD project will increase our understanding of familial British dementia and pave the way for potential new treatments. Studying the disease will give greater insight into how microglia cells act in other forms of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease.

Help us fund more projects like this one

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