Dementia: the next generation

Friday 6 February 2015

Four Scottish universities are to join forces to study how diet, exercise and other factors affect the amount of blood that reaches brain tissue and how that may affect memory.

The project – which has been funded by the Alzheimer’s Society – will establish a new doctoral training centre for PhD students across the partner universities in St Andrews, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee.

The centre is one of eight newly funded by the Alzheimer’s Society around the UK that will support 55 PhDs and Clinical Fellows to conduct cutting edge research into all types of dementia. It is the single biggest funding commitment that has been made to support dementia early-career dementia researchers in the UK.

Researchers say that a reduction in blood flow can impair memory and is one of the known early changes in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The new research programme will investigate various aspects of the relationship between blood flow and the changes within the brain that cause dementia.

Frank Gunn-Moore, a Professor of Molecular Neurobiology at the University of St Andrews, will work with colleagues over the four Scottish partner universities. He said, “We are particularly pleased with the awarding of this Alzheimer’s Society doctoral training centre as the understanding and treatment of dementia requires different researchers from different institutes to come together. As I always like to say: people collaborate not buildings, and this is a good example as in this proposal, my colleagues from Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh have decided to work together to tackle this important societal problem.”

At the partner universities, some PhD students will investigate the role of diet and other lifestyle factors in regulating blood flow, and the way this alters brain function. Others will look at dementia in mice and whether drugs aimed at combatting reduced blood flow can impact the course of the disease.

The Scottish team hopes that by better understanding the interaction between lifestyle choices and blood circulation, they can uncover new targets for drug therapies.

Professor Karen Horsburgh, of the Centre for Neuroregeneration at the University of Edinburgh, is leading the centre. She said: “Understanding more about the causes of Alzheimer’s disease and ways to prevent it from developing, either through lifestyle changes or drug treatments, is incredibly important in order to reduce the number of people living with the condition.”

Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at the Alzheimer’s Society added,”There’s a huge amount of progress being made by the dementia research community but unless we attract and train the best young talent we will limit how quickly we can make ground breaking discoveries. For too long dementia research has been underfunded and as a result we have significantly fewer scientists than other conditions, with six times more people working in cancer than dementia.

“If we’re going to defeat dementia we need to give the best brains the right opportunities and build a research workforce that is fit for the future. That’s why we’re proud to be announcing the largest investment of its kind, which will see £5 million committed to create the next generation of dementia researchers. People with dementia deserve nothing less than an all-out fightback against the condition and our Doctoral Training Centres will help us enlist the right people to lead it.”


Professor Frank Gunn-Moore is available for interview on 01334 463525 or [email protected]

For further information, please contact Anna Borthwick at the University of Edinburgh Press and PR Office, by calling +44 131 650 2246 or +44 7825 523 144; or by emailing [email protected].

Category Research

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