York dementia researchers head back into lab in search for breakthroughs

22 June 2020

Today (Monday 22 June) dementia researchers funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK are back in the lab at the University of York, while ensuring they comply with the strict government guidelines on social distancing.

While resourceful scientists funded by the UK’s leading dementia research charity were still undertaking some research in innovative ways wherever possible from home, including performing analysis of experiments and writing up findings, this return marks a change in pace with researchers physically allowed back in the lab to resume their pioneering work.

Almost one million people in the UK are living with dementia, and over half of us know someone affected. In Yorkshire alone, 60,000 people live with the condition.

People with dementia experience memory loss, confusion, personality changes and gradually lose the ability to manage daily life. Sadly, it has become clear that people with dementia are more at risk of experiencing severe effects of COVID-19. Official figures now show that a quarter of people who have died with COVID-19 in England and Wales also had dementia.

The researchers in Dr Steve Quinn’s lab will work on a shift pattern over the next weeks, enabling research activities to return close to 100% capacity. This marks a return of hope for the researchers unable to access their experiments for almost three months.

With only limited treatment options available for people who develop dementia, Dr Quinn’s work funded by the UK’s leading dementia research charity aims will use a state-of-the-art microscope to look at the interactions between proteins involved in Alzheimer’s disease, which will paint a clearer picture of how the disease progresses and provide crucial insights for the development of new treatments.

Speaking about the return to the lab, Dr Steven Quinn from the University of York, said:
“Just as research is vital in the fight against COVID-19, we know that research will help us overcome dementia. We are determined to recover what we can from experiments that were interrupted at the start of lockdown, but our first experiments back hold promise for a new suite of experimental tools for detecting the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

“While this isn’t a full paced return, we will also look to start new experiments to complete our projects. We need to make sure we work safely to help avoid vital experimental work like this stalling again as COVID-19 is still out there and as hungry as ever.”

Dr Rosa Sancho, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“Dementia affects 60,000 people in Yorkshire alone, and nearly one million people across the UK. Research carried out by dementia experts like Dr Quinn is the only answer to a world free of the fear, harm and heartbreak of the condition.

“Alzheimer’s Research UK estimates it could be facing a potential drop in income due to COVID-19 of up to 45%, and dementia research has been hit hard by the pandemic. While all researchers will still have challenges to face, this physical return to work gives them and everyone affected by dementia hope that we will see progress in dementia research continue.

“Our funding for research like this would not be possible without donations from our fantastic supporters. Now more than ever, dementia research needs our backing. Anyone can donate to help dementia research regain momentum at alzres.uk/make-donation or by calling call 0300 111 5555.”