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£20,000 for dementia scientists to pursue treatments

£20,000 for Birmingham dementia scientists to pursue treatments

4 October 2011

Scientists at Aston University are embarking on a project that could bring new dementia treatments a step closer, thanks to a £20,000 grant from Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity.

Researchers at Aston University are using a pioneering new approach using artificial ‘liposomes’ – tiny biological ‘bubbles’ that help the scientists investigate how brain cells change as Alzheimer’s develops. In a two-year pilot project, they will study how normal processes within brain cells may be disrupted in Alzheimer’s, causing the cells to die.

Led by Dr Thomas Wassmer, the scientists are using their new method to identify different proteins that bind together during the disease. One of the proteins they will study is the amyloid precursor protein (APP), which is broken down and becomes toxic, before building in the brain and killing cells.

The researchers believe APP has an important role in communicating information to cells, a process that may be changed in the disease. The team has already shown that a particular enzyme binds to APP, and they now want to study this interaction further, to see how it contributes to APP’s normal function and whether its disruption can lead to the development of Alzheimer’s.

It’s hoped their research could eventually lead to new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common form of dementia.

Dr Wassmer said: “We’re very pleased to secure this important funding, which will allow us to build on our earlier research and begin testing our ideas. If we can understand the causes of Alzheimer’s, we should be able to find ways to intervene and stop the disease developing.

“I’m very excited about being able to focus my work in a way that will hopefully make a difference to people affected by Alzheimer’s. Dementia is one of the key challenges facing scientists and society today, and it can only be beaten through research. I hope our work will bring us closer to that goal.”

Alzheimer’s Research UK supporter Bernard Hawker, of Walsall, near Birmingham, knows only too well the devastating impact Alzheimer’s can have. After his wife Linda died with the disease in 2002, at the age of 71, Bernard also lost a close friend to Alzheimer’s earlier this year.

He said: “When Linda was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, I felt it was the beginning of the end, and seeing her slowly decline was devastating. I would dearly love to see a treatment that would mean others don’t have to suffer, but before that can happen I believe scientists need to find out what causes the disease.

“I chose to support Alzheimer’s Research UK because I know that dementia research is desperately underfunded, so it’s great to see money going to fund research here in Birmingham.”

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “We’re delighted to fund this promising project, which should help answer some important questions that still remain about Alzheimer’s disease. Understanding the causes of the disease is vital for developing new treatments that are so desperately needed.

“Dementia affects over 9,000 people in Birmingham alone and 820,000 people in the UK. With those numbers increasing, the need for research has never been more urgent, yet funding for dementia research lags far behind other diseases.”

For further information, or to speak with Dr Thomas Wassmer, Bernard Hawker or Dr Simon Ridley, please contact Kirsty Marais, Media Officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK on 01223 843304, 07826 559233 or email press@alzheimersresearchuk.org 

Notes to editors:

  • Alzheimer’s Research UK is the UK’s leading charity specialising in finding preventions, treatments and a cure for dementia.
  • To help us defeat dementia, donate today by visiting www.alzheimersresearchuk.org or calling 01223 843899.
  • We are currently supporting dementia research projects worth £17 million in leading Universities across the UK.
  • Aston University  was founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston University is a research-led university known for its world-class teaching quality excellent relationships with business and industry, its graduate employability record and diverse community. It has broad strengths in business, engineering, subjects allied to medicine, modern languages and social sciences. www.aston.ac.uk

Employable Graduates; Exploitable Research