Dementia Scientists Cross the Atlantic in £380,000 US/UK Research Partnership

Two talented dementia scientists will benefit from a total of £380,000 in a US/UK exchange programme aimed at improving the understanding of Alzheimer’s disease. The initiative teams the world’s two leading dementia research charities, Alzheimer’s Research UK and the Alzheimer’s Association (US), for a cross-Atlantic partnership to improve collaboration among scientists. Each organisation will fund one researcher to spend time in a lab in the other country, learning new skills and sharing resources to help move their research forward.

Dr Rita Guerreiro, of UCL (University College London), will collaborate with a number of research groups in the US, Canada, Spain and Turkey to investigate the genetics of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, which strikes people under the age of 65. Although three genetic mutations that cause Alzheimer’s in younger people have been identified, there are some families affected by early-onset Alzheimer’s who do not appear to carry any of these known mutations. Dr Guerreiro plans to work with a number of these families, collecting DNA samples from volunteers with and without the disease to analyse their genetic make-up in detail.

As part of her three-year project, Dr Guerreiro will work alongside Dr Andrew Singleton at the Laboratory of Neurogenetics, NIA, NIH, looking for genetic variations in these families that may cause early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Dr Guerreiro said:
“I’m delighted to receive this funding, which will enable me to work with a unique set of samples with a wealth of potential information to be unlocked. By identifying additional genes that are involved in early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, we can gain a clearer picture of some of the causes of the disease – the first step towards developing effective treatments. I’m looking forward to this exciting collaboration and hope that our study can help boost the search for new treatments.”

Meanwhile, Lindsay Reese, PhD, of the University of Vermont, will work with Dr Karen Horsburgh at the University of Edinburgh as part of a three-year project to investigate changes in the blood-brain barrier, a shield of tightly connected cells that regulates which proteins can pass in and out of the brain that may be connected with Alzheimer’s disease progression. Previous research has shown that about 80% of people with Alzheimer’s disease have beta amyloid protein accumulation in the brain and the brain’s extensive blood vessel walls, which may be involved in disease progression. Dr Reese and colleagues will examine the role of impaired blood flow and amyloid deposition in blood-brain barrier damage. By studying human brains and several different models of Alzheimer’s disease, Dr Reese hopes to understand how these disease features are linked.

“I’m genuinely grateful for and inspired by this grant, and I look forward to the intellectual exchange and advancement that can occur as a result,” Dr Reese said. “My vision is that more clearly understanding the linkage between Alzheimer’s, amyloid and the blood-brain barrier will lead to new ideas about possible treatment strategies.”

Dr Eric Karran, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“We are delighted to be working with the Alzheimer’s Association to fund this work, and we hope this partnership could help us make real progress towards our common goal of defeating dementia. Collaboration is vital for research to move forward – the more people working on a problem, the faster we can achieve results, but we also need to keep researchers talking if they are to make the most of those results. The more we can encourage people to share resources, skills and ideas, the better our chances of developing effective treatments for Alzheimer’s and other diseases that cause dementia.”

“Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are a global problem, a growing epidemic, and international research collaboration is an important component in spurring new knowledge and new discoveries,” said Heather Snyder, PhD, Alzheimer’s Association senior associate director of Medical and Scientific Relations. “We’re very pleased to join with Alzheimer’s Research UK to provide an opportunity for these two scientists to advance their studies.”

This material has been published with the kind permission of Alzheimer Research UK.

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