Research Projects

What happens when the barrier between blood vessels and brain cells breakdowns in Alzheimer’s disease?

Awarded to:
Dr Fiona McLean

Current award:

University of Dundee

1 May 2022 - 30 April 2025

Full project name:

Is blood-brain barrier dysfunction in Alzheimer's disease driven by altered cellular metabolism?






Researchers are investigating whether the changes in cell metabolism at the barrier between blood vessels and brain cells contributes to brain degeneration.

Blood vessels are vital for delivering oxygen and fuel to organs to keep them functioning properly. Throughout our brains are a group of specialised cells that form a barrier between blood vessels and the nerve cells. This layer of protection is called the ‘blood-brain barrier’. These cells determine what gets into the brain and what doesn’t.

The blood-brain barrier deteriorates in many diseases that cause dementia, including in Alzheimer’s disease. This leads to toxic substances entering the brain, incorrect use of vital nutrients like oxygen and glucose, and failure to remove waste products.

Amyloid protein is one of the toxic substances that builds-up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. In 80-90% of cases, amyloid clumps are found embedded into brain blood vessels.

What will they do?

In this project, Dr Fiona McLean from University of Dundee will study the blood-brain barrier of mice with features of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr McLean will investigate the changes in metabolism at the cellular level at the blood-brain barrier, as well as at the  whole-body level of the mice as the disease processes progress.

This project aims to discover when and how the build-up of amyloid causes the blood-brain barrier to breakdown. The aim is to find ways to reverse these changes in the blood-brain barrier early in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and keep the brain healthy.


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