UCL dementia scientists benefit from £1.5m charity funding boost

21 September 2012

Alzheimer's hippocampus

Dementia scientists at UCL are set to gain from a funding boost after Alzheimer’s Research UK committed a record amount of money to new research projects.

The research charity has pledged a further £5.5m investment in new projects, bringing its current commitment to research to over £20m. The announcement, which coincides with World Alzheimer’s Day, includes awards worth £1.5m for UCL researchers.

The charity has awarded a total of 52 new grants aimed at understanding the causes of dementia, improving diagnosis, and finding new treatments and preventions. Eight of these grants have been awarded to pioneering researchers at UCL.

The commitment will allow scientists at the University to study in detail some of the changes that occur in the brain as Alzheimer’s disease develops, in a bid to find ways of stopping these changes. It will also enable researchers to investigate the role of a gene called C9ORF72 – a recently discovered risk gene for frontotemporal dementia – revealing more about the causes of the disease.

I am delighted that Alzheimer’s Research UK has chosen to invest in my research and my future as a dementia scientist. This funding will allow me to investigate potential ways of stopping synapses deteriorating as Alzheimer’s takes hold, a process that has been correlated with the loss of memory observed in the disease.

Professor Patricia Salinas

Prof Patricia Salinas, a researcher from UCL, has been awarded nearly £398,000 for a major three-year project. Her team will study a protein that plays a key role in the destruction of the connections between brain cells, called synapses. The project will also see them test whether different molecules can stop synapses being destroyed – the first step towards the development of new drugs to help treat Alzheimer’s.

Prof Salinas said:“I am delighted that Alzheimer’s Research UK has chosen to invest in my research and my future as a dementia scientist. This funding will allow me to investigate potential ways of stopping synapses deteriorating as Alzheimer’s takes hold, a process that has been correlated with the loss of memory observed in the disease. With so many families affected by the disease, it is important to understand how we can prevent or treat it, and I hope my research will take us closer to that goal.”

UCL President & Provost Professor Malcolm Grant said:“We are delighted that Alzheimer's Research UK have chosen to invest in future dementia research at UCL. Their support will strengthen and further develop the extensive work already underway at UCL in the fields of neurology and neuroscience, especially in experimental medicine."

Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:“We are proud to announce a record year for investment in research. Dementia is an issue close to many people’s hearts and it is touching to see that public support for our work has increased despite a difficult financial climate. We are entirely dependent on voluntary donations, so this major investment in research is a vote of support from the public for UK dementia scientists We are dedicated to defeating dementia and pleased to be supporting world-class research at UCL.

“While this announcement is a time to reflect on the successes of the past year, it is also a time to look to the future. With the number of people in the UK with dementia estimated at 820,000 and rising, there needs to be increased and sustained funding for research. Funding for dementia research still lags far behind research into other common disease and we desperately need the public’s support to make dementia a national priority.”


Links

UCL Research Department of Cell and Developmental Biology
Alzheimer's Research UK

Image: Amyloid beta (cyan blue) binds to nerve cells of the hippocampus (red) and attacks synapses resulting in the loss of memories in Alzheimer’s disease. New research has led to important insights into the mechanisms that induce synapse loss. The discovery brings hope for the development of new therapies that protect synapses and therefore prevent memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease.

Credit: Silvia Purro/Patricia Salinas/UCL