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Senior Postdoctoral Research Scientist Dr Becky Carlyle has been awarded a £420K funding boost from Alzheimer’s Research UK.

On World Alzheimer's Day, Alzheimer's Research UK has announced support for pioneering dementia research at the Oxford Parkinson's Disease Centre. Nearly a million people in the UK are affected by dementia, with Alzheimer's being the most common cause. A hallmark of Alzheimer’s is the build-up and spread of amyloid protein in the brain. Researchers think that this protein sets off a chain of events leading to the loss of nerve cells and the symptoms of dementia.

The new £420K of funding will allow Dr Becky Carlyle and her team to investigate ways to boost resilience to Alzheimer’s. By identifying the proteins that are most important for protecting nerve cells from damage by amyloid and a second critical protein called tau, they aim to reveal potential targets for new drugs that could help slow the progression of the disease.

Dr Carlyle said: “The interaction of proteins underlies all the complex processes happening in our brain. When things are going right, nerve cells can communicate, form memories, and clear away toxic waste products. In people with Alzheimer’s disease, these processes are disrupted.

“To understand why some people with high levels of amyloid build-up don’t develop dementia, we will measure thousands of proteins in the brains of people with and without dementia, figure out where these proteins are active, and how their interactions change in disease. We will then test which of the proteins we identify are the most important for resilience, in experiments using human nerve cells developed from stem cells.

“Thanks to this new funding, we will be closer to understanding a key feature of Alzheimer’s, designing treatments to increase resilience in those at risk, and helping limit the impact of this devastating disease.”

Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “With 944,000 people estimated to be living with dementia in the UK, more than ever before, it is vital that we invest in dementia research. Fundamental research projects such as this one underway in Oxford will allow us to better understand the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s disease and highlight potential new targets for future treatments."