Scotland-based researcher wins prestigious dementia prize
24 March 2020
Today (Tuesday 24 March), Dr Amy Lloyd from the University of Dundee has been awarded the Jean Corsan prize for the best scientific paper by an early-career researcher by the country’s leading dementia research charity Alzheimer’s Research UK.
Dr Amy Lloyd will receive a £2,000 personal prize, supported by the Jean Corsan Foundation for her pioneering research into the brain’s resident immune cells known as microglia.
Originally from Staffordshire and having completed her PhD at The University of Edinburgh, Dr Amy Lloyd now lives in the City of Discovery and conducts her research at the University. The prize is ordinarily presented at Alzheimer’s Research UK’s annual Research Conference. Though the conference has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, Dr Lloyd joins other scientists to share her work as part of a virtual Twitter conference, ensuring scientific understanding about dementia continues to grow worldwide.
Her prize-winning research paper shows how microglia can contribute to damage in diseases like Alzheimer’s. In healthy brains microglia act like vacuum cleaners, removing waste produced normally in the brain as well as the toxic proteins that build-up in Alzheimer’s and other diseases. This process is vital for protecting nerve cells from damage.
However, microglia can be a double-edged sword: they can destroy harmful molecules and help tissue repair, but they can also become overactive and cause harmful inflammation that damages nerve cells in the brain.
Dr Lloyd’s research paper shows that for the brain to recover from damage, overactive microglia need to die so that more helpful microglia can move in and carry out their job. When this process of microglia death goes wrong, it leads to harmful levels of brain inflammation and contributes to diseases that cause dementia.
The brain’s immune system is seen as the new frontier in tackling neurodegenerative diseases and this process is now being explored as a treatment option for diseases like multiple sclerosis.
Dr Amy Lloyd, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Dundee said:
“The brain’s immune system is complex, with microglia acting as both a critical defence mechanism and a key driver of damage to the brain. We hope that this process will be an important target for future drugs that could protect the brain from damage in diseases like Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.
“With the state-of-the-art facilities here in Dundee, I have the chance to thoroughly investigate microglia, and better understand how they contribute to diseases like Alzheimer’s. Winning the Jean Corsan prize is the highlight of my career so far. As soon as I heard I rang my mum! It’s an honour to receive this award by Alzheimer’s Research UK.”
Dr Carol Routledge, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“Making new breakthroughs in understanding the complex causes of diseases that cause dementia requires dedication and innovative thinking. The role the immune system plays in disease is a hot topic in dementia research. It’s great that we have young, inspiring researchers in Scotland working on getting us one step closer to changing people’s lives.
“We congratulate Dr Lloyd on her well-deserved win.”