Research Projects

What makes a neuron vulnerable to early Alzheimer’s disease?

Awarded to:
Prof Paul Matthews

Current award:

University College London

1 September 2023 - 31 August 2027

Full project name:

What makes a neuron vulnerable to early Alzheimer's disease?






In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, certain nerve cells become damaged and eventually die. These vulnerable cells represent a weakness in the brain’s defences that triggers the spread of further damage and cell loss.

The aim of this PhD project is to identify these vulnerable nerve cells and discover what makes them more susceptible.

The student will work in Prof Matthews lab and use a new imaging method that groups together nerve cells depending on what proteins they produce.

They will then investigate whether more vulnerable nerve cells contain the abnormal version of the tau protein. This protein can form damaging tangles that are harmful to nerve cells. Tau tangles are one of the key hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.

Towards the end of project, the PhD student will measure the levels of similar proteins in the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. This could provide a way of identifying Alzheimer’s disease in people before it develops further. Finding key proteins involved in the disease is vital for earlier diagnosis.

Currently there is no treatment to prevent these cells from dying. This project will play an important role in developing future strategies for enhancing nerve cell resilience to Alzheimer’s disease as well as detecting signs of very early damage.

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