It is hoped the research, conducted by PhD student Mariko Taga and funded by an £86,000 grant from Alzheimer’s Research UK, could open the door to new treatments for the disease.
Using generously donated brain tissue, the research team will compare brain samples from healthy people with samples from people with Alzheimer’s. The researchers hypothesise that people with Alzheimer’s will have more of the proteins, known as the ‘metaflammasome’, in their brains. If their theory proves correct, they hope that by using drugs to block one of the proteins, they could find a way to intervene in the disease process.
Mariko, 26, says: “I’m very excited to begin my work, which I hope will make a real contribution in the battle against dementia. I chose this area of research because there are still so many unanswered questions about Alzheimer’s. There are still no drugs that can stop Alzheimer’s in its tracks, and the only way we can rectify that is through research.”
Her supervisor, Dr Delphine Boche, adds: “I’m delighted that we’ve secured this funding, which will allow us to gain a much deeper understanding of how inflammatory responses may play a role in Alzheimer’s disease. It’s already known that obesity and diabetes increase our risk of developing dementia, and this study should also tell us more about exactly how they are linked. Dementia can only be beaten through research, and I hope this project will take us one step closer to reaching that goal.”
Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, comments: “We’re very pleased to fund this promising study. It’s been known for some time that inflammation has a role to play in Alzheimer’s disease, and this group is taking a new approach that should produce interesting results.
“More than 820,000 people in the UK are affected by dementia, and over 2,000 people with the condition in Southampton alone. We urgently need to understand the causes of Alzheimer’s if we are to develop new treatments that are so desperately needed – that means it’s vital to invest in research.”