Researchers at the University of Southampton have received a boost of £50,000 from Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity. The announcement comes during Dementia Action Week, a national initiative aimed at raising the awareness of dementia and encouraging people to join efforts to help tackle the condition.
Dementia is a condition that affects 850,000 people in the UK including 20,000 in Hampshire alone. Sadly, while there are some treatments that can temporarily compensate for certain symptoms, there are no drugs to tackle the underlying diseases that cause the condition. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, but there are several other diseases that can cause the condition.
All of these diseases cause damage to nerve cells as they spread through the brain. Tau protein is a hallmark of a number of different brain diseases. It builds up inside nerve cells in Alzheimer’s disease and in a rarer form of dementia called frontotemporal dementia.
Tau is thought to play an important role in how these diseases spread through the brain. But researchers don’t yet understand the exact mechanism by which the protein is transmitted from one nerve cell to another.
Prof Amrit Mudher at the University of Southampton will lead research to better understand how the tau protein moves through the brain. The £50,000 Pilot Project will help explore these processes in research involving fruit flies that produce human tau protein.
Prof Mudher said:
“Tau is one of the hallmark proteins in Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. This new funding will help us to shed new light on how this protein travels between nerve cells and allows diseases like Alzheimer’s to spread through the brain.
“We will use genetic techniques to switch off genes that may play a role in how tau protein moves through the brain. Not only will this allow us to better understand the molecular chain of events involved in the progression of diseases like Alzheimer’s, it will also highlight targets for potential drugs and provide a way for new drugs to be tested.”
Dr Laura Phipps from Alzheimer’s Research UK said:
“Scientists at the University of Southampton are leading the way in many different aspects of dementia research. The work of researchers like Prof Mudher is helping to make real breakthroughs possible for people affected by dementia.
“We can only fund pioneering research like this in Southampton thanks to our dedicated supporters who are often personally affected by dementia. They carry out amazing feats of fundraising both locally and nationally, which helps us fund vital research in the region.
““There are many different ways people can take action to help people who are living with dementia, including fundraising, advocacy and volunteering to take part in research. Anyone who would like to find out more about how they can support efforts to overcome dementia can visit www.alzheimersresearchuk.org”