Southampton student speaks at UK’s leading dementia conference

19 March 2019

A PhD student from the University of Southampton will present research findings to 500 top dementia researchers at the Alzheimer’s Research UK Conference 2019 today (Tuesday 19 March).

The annual event is the largest meeting of dementia researchers in the country. Jacqui Nimmo, 24, is the youngest speaker to be taking to the stage during the two-day meeting.

Earlier in the day, comedian and actor, Stephen Fry welcomed scientists to the Conference in a video message highlighting the importance of dementia research.

Dementia affects 850,000 people in the UK, including around 20,000 in Hampshire alone. In 2017 dementia overtook heart disease to become the country’s leading cause of death.

The progressive condition is caused by a number of different diseases, the most common being Alzheimer’s disease. The effects are not limited to memory and thinking problems and can encompass personality changes, communication problems, hallucinations and a host of other life-changing symptoms.

While there are currently no treatments to stop or slow the diseases that cause dementia from taking hold, scientists at the University of Southampton are helping make vital progress towards new ways to help those affected.

Alzheimer’s Research UK, the country’s largest charity funder of dementia research, has provided nearly £5 million for pioneering science in the region.

By improving our understanding of the biological causes of dementia, researchers like Jacqui Nimmo are making new breakthroughs possible for people living with the condition.

The 24-year-old, was born in South Africa, raised in Tanzania, and came to the UK as an international student in 2011. Jacqui now studies under Prof Roxana Carare at the University of Southampton.

She presents findings from work that highlights a biological drainage system that clears toxic proteins from the brain.

Talking before her conference appearance, Jacqui Nimmo, said:
“A build-up of toxic proteins in the brain is a central feature of many of the diseases that cause dementia. Understanding how the brain is usually able to get rid of these proteins and why this goes wrong in dementia, will help point the way to potential treatments or preventions.

“Research from our laboratory suggests that factors that increase the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure can also change how well the brain’s drainage system gets rid of waste. This can result in a build-up of harmful proteins in the brain. This may be an important way that our lifestyle can affect our risk of dementia.

“The Alzheimer’s Research UK Conference is such a great platform for a young researcher like me to be able to share my work with established scientists. As a PhD student, it’s important I get feedback from the very best to develop my skills and become a better scientist.”

Dr Sara Imarisio

Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“It’s fantastic that early career dementia researchers like Jacqui are able to present their findings at the UK’s largest dementia research conference. Together with previous findings from their laboratory, Jacqui’s work is yet more evidence that that the health of our heart and brain is linked. We need to think about dementia as part of our wider brain health, in the same way we do for heart health.

“For every one dementia researcher there are four working to cure cancer so we urgently need to attract and support budding new dementia scientists. Supporting early career researchers now is vital to make sure we have the best dementia scientists of tomorrow, so that we can maintain momentum and continue to make breakthroughs in research possible.”