Dementia research in Sheffield receives £50,000 charity boost

08 June 2020

Today (Monday 8 June) the UK’s leading dementia research charity announced that research in Sheffield has been given a £50,000 funding boost. While Alzheimer’s Research UK estimates it could be facing a potential drop in income due to COVID-19 of up to 45%, the charity is committed to continue funding pioneering science in the region.

Dementia affects over 850,000 people in the UK, including around 60,000 in Yorkshire alone. People with dementia experience memory loss, confusion, personality changes and gradually lose the ability to manage daily life. The condition is caused by physical diseases in the brain and recent evidence shows dementia is also linked to a higher risk of severe COVID-19.

Currently only limited treatment options available for people who develop dementia exist. This new funding from the UK’s leading dementia research charity strengthens its backing for scientists in Sheffield, who are still working hard to understand the different causes of dementia and how to treat the condition.

The £50,000 of investment from Alzheimer’s Research UK, will fund an innovative new research project led by Prof Stephen Wharton. Prof Wharton and his team will investigate a protein called occludin that is important in the blood vessels of the brain, and which they have also found in nerve cells and astrocytes – the star-shaped support cells in the brain.

Prof Wharton has reason to believe that occludin in nerve cells may be involved in regulating RNA, the biological messengers that carry instructions from the DNA code. Changes to occludin might alter these messages in damaged cells in dementia.

Prof Stephen Wharton from the University of Sheffield, who will lead the research said:
“We use a research technique where we take skin cells donated by people with Alzheimer’s disease and reprogram them into nerve cells that no longer produce occludin. This will allow us to reveal how this protein affects cells present in the brain. Finding out how occludin affects the brain may open the door to new ways to treat diseases like Alzheimer’s and we are pleased to see Alzheimer’s Research UK continue to back our research at this time.”

Dr Rosa Sancho, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“Dementia affects 60,000 people in Yorkshire, and nearly one million people across the UK. Research carried out by dementia experts like this is the only answer to a world free of the fear, harm and heartbreak of the condition.

“Alzheimer’s Research UK remains committed to funding the best science and Sheffield has a strong dementia research community. Funding research like this would not be possible without donations from our fantastic supporters. Now more than ever, dementia research needs our backing, supporters can donate at https://alzres.uk/make-donation or by calling call 0300 111 5555.”