Brain tissue processing

Jo Anne Stratton, Assistant Professor, McGill University, Canada
“There is a real need for well-designed studies to evaluate the issues arising when obtaining and processing human brain tissue. We hope that the methods developed here will provide new standards of excellence for the field.”

Toxic protein analysis

Nanet Willumsen, Research Technician UK DRI
“As a technician, I investigate the accumulation of toxin proteins in the Alzheimer’s brain, and the role played by our genetics. We’ve created a vibrant research environment where colleagues studying different aspects of diseases including genes, fats and proteins collaborate together in the search for therapies.”


Combiz Khozoie, Senior Bioinformatician, UK DRI
“I’m excited to be combining analytics, cloud computing and machine learning to interpret the wide range of complex data generated from the project.”

Synapse loss

Jessica Griffiths, Cross-centre Postdoctoral Researcher, UK DRI
“I’m studying the changes that occur to the synapses of the Alzheimer’s brain as the disease progresses. By analysing and integrating this information with the other ‘omics approaches, we are generating a powerful resource and taking huge strides in the field.”

Brain banks

Seth Love, Director of the MRC UK Brain Bank Network
“As the South West Dementia Brain Bank, we work closely with colleagues in Edinburgh and King’s to collect post-mortem brain tissue - a key resource in furthering our understanding of Alzheimer’s. In addition to collection and dissection of the tissue, we run multiple biochemical assays on the tissue and look forward to these data being integrated with the other ‘omics datasets in the project.”

Collaborating to drive progress

Theming key topics for focus

The different neurodegenerative conditions that cause dementia share some fundamental disease mechanisms and characteristics.

These parallels form the basis for our scientific themes – networks which bring together researchers and clinicians from across our centres and beyond.

Find out more about the scientific themes

By sharing expertise through strategic meetings and focused symposia, we help build collaborative projects that address the biggest questions in dementia research.

Additionally, our disease interest groups convene experts from discovery research to the clinic, encouraging an integrated approach to our studies on dementia.

Synapse theme:
Keeping the brain connected

Theme leads: Dr Samuel Barnes (Group Leader, UK DRI at Imperial)
and Prof Seth Grant (Associate Member, Edinburgh)

For our brain to function properly, neurones must communicate to one another through intricate structures known as synapses. It is thought that dysfunction here is one of the earliest events in neurodegenerative disease. Developing treatments to protect synapses may therefore be an effective way to prevent lasting damage to the brain.

Our synapse theme brings together expertise and skill sets to answer major questions and unlock new therapeutic and diagnostic opportunities. These include why some synapses are more vulnerable to immune cells than others, and how toxic proteins cause dysfunction and subsequent cell death.

We are only now starting to reveal the wonderful diversity of synapses that connect our neurones. If we are to find ways to prevent synapse loss in dementia, the research community must probe these differences at all levels using a range of techniques and approaches.

Dr Samuel Barnes
Group Leader & Co-lead for Synapse
theme (UK DRI at Imperial)

Building a brain atlas for
Alzheimer’s disease

Led by the UK DRI at Imperial, the Multi-‘omics Atlas Project (MAP) is an ambitious initiative to track the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease at every stage of illness and across the multiple brain regions affected.

Working with Brains for Dementia Research, the UK Brain Banks Network and Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre, the multi-disciplinary team of national and international researchers are using an unprecedented range of techniques to probe brain tissue at different stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

The samples and data collected will become an invaluable resource for the research community, and a launchpad for innovative new studies to rapidly improve our understanding of the biological processes behind dementia.

Find out more about the Multi-‘omics Atlas Project (MAP)

To find drug targets for the treatment of Alzheimer’s, it is crucial that we gain a greater understanding of how the disease changes as it develops. This hugely collaborative project is a major step towards achieving that goal.

Dr Johanna Jackson
MAP Senior Scientific Project Manager & UK DRI Emerging Leader
(UK DRI at Imperial)

Using big data for big ideas

Recent scientific and technological advances have made it possible for institutes like the UK DRI to generate huge volumes of data. We believe this could hold the key to better understanding of the diseases that cause dementia, and unlock new approaches to diagnosis, treatment, care and prevention. To fully exploit this vast data asset, we need to draw on the expertise of those in informatics, data science and artificial intelligence.

We’ve partnered with the Deep Dementia Phenotyping (DEMON) Network which brings together over 1000 scientists, clinicians and industry partners. This collaboration will accelerate the transformation of data into translatable knowledge that can help us find treatments and develop new technologies for those living with dementia.

Find out more about our partnership with the
DEMON network
We teamed up with the Alan Turing Institute and the DEMON Network for a dementia themed Data Study Group event.
Through a ‘collaborative hackathon’, multidisciplinary teams brainstorm avenues of exploration and run ‘in silico’ experiments on the data. The event presents an ideal opportunity to test promising proof-of-concepts, enable knowledge transfer, and kickstart cross-cutting projects for new discoveries in dementia research.