September 21, 2016, by Emma Thorne
Funding boost for Nottingham dementia scientists
Dementia researchers based at The University of Nottingham have been awarded £13,000 of new funding from Alzheimer’s Research UK for state-of-the-art equipment that will help scientists reveal more about the genetics of diseases like Alzheimer’s.
The announcement comes on World Alzheimer’s Day (Wednesday 21 September), a global initiative to highlight the impact of Alzheimer’s and challenge misconceptions of the most common cause of dementia, a condition that affects more than 10,000 people in Nottinghamshire alone.
Alzheimer’s Research UK is the UK’s leading dementia research charity, specialising in finding preventions, treatments and a cure for dementia. The charity funds more than £33m of dementia research across the UK, including pioneering work currently underway at the University of Nottingham. The University houses the Alzheimer’s Research UK DNA Bank, a resource containing more than 10,000 DNA samples that dementia scientists can draw upon for their research. The DNA Bank has already been instrumental in uncovering 21 of the 22 known risk genes for Alzheimer’s, a disease which is thought to be caused by a mixture of genetic and lifestyle factors, alongside age. Researchers are working to find more of these risk genes so that they can better understand why some people develop diseases like Alzheimer’s while others don’t. Genetic research is also a crucial first step in finding out more about the biological processes that underpin dementia and highlighting new targets for future treatments.
Genetic and environmental factors
The nearly £13,000 of new funding is for equipment that will support Nottingham researchers who are working to extract genetic information from brain tissue generously donated by people who died with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Extracting genetic information from these samples is a time consuming process and current methods sometimes result in valuable information being lost. The new equipment supports an innovative technique that allows tissue samples to be frozen and then mechanically prepared for analysis without the need for drawn-out manual techniques while ensuring the information taken from the samples is of the highest possible quality.
Dr Keeley Brookes, research fellow in the School of Life Sciences, said: “I am extremely grateful to Alzheimer’s Research UK for this new funding. The equipment will provide a real boost to the way we collect genetic information and ensure the DNA Bank continues to be a world class resource for use by dementia researchers in the UK and the world over. The diseases that cause dementia are caused by a complex interaction of genetic and environmental factors and we need as much high-quality genetic data as possible to tease apart these elements and better understand the risks. When we have a clear idea of the causes we can use this knowledge to find targets for effective treatments for the diseases.”
Dr David Reynolds, Chief Scientific Officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “We are very pleased to be able to continue supporting the vital genetics research underway at the University of Nottingham. This new equipment will provide significant new capability to a team working at the cutting-edge of this area of science. The more we learn about the triggers of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, the greater our ability to find a treatment that can halt nerve cell damage and make a real difference to the lives of the 850,000 people living with the condition in the UK.
“We don’t receive any government support for the funding we provide so Alzheimer’s Research UK relies entirely on the generous support of members of the public who make all of this work possible. This new investment is a testament to their hard work, dedication and generosity.”