Dementia is underpinned by numerous and complex biological changes. In order to truly understand the causes, we must tackle it from different angles, drawing on a diverse range of expertise and perspectives.
From genes to cells, from circuits to systems, we work across the diseases that cause dementia, unravelling clues and patterns that can lead us to much-needed treatments.
Our risk of developing dementia is heavily influenced by our unique genetic make-up. Mathematician Prof Valentina Escott-Price is probing huge genetic datasets to better understand what genes are involved and to what degree. Her research offers insight into fundamental disease pathways and helps predict those individuals most at risk.Find out more about Professor Escott-Price’s research in this Q&A
We have a remarkably diverse range of cells in our brain, all equipped with complex biological machinery in order to function. In the early stages of disease, cellular processes are disrupted, leading to the build-up of harmful, neurotoxic proteins.
Dr Edward Avezov is using stage-of-the-art imaging techniques to reveal what may be going wrong and, crucially, how we can protect our cells from damage.
Dr Avezov uses cutting-edge microscopes to detect changes in the endoplasmic reticulum, a membranous organelle which plays an important role in the processing and transport of proteins in the cell.
Dr Busche uses state-of-the-art technology to study interactions between toxic protein plaques (red) and blood vessels (green) in the brains of genetically-altered mice which mimic aspects of Alzheimer's disease pathology.
The billions of neurons in our brain talk to one another through electrical impulses. This communication is fundamental to everything we do, from how we speak and listen, to how we feel and make sense of our environment, take decisions and form memories. Clinician-scientist Dr Marc Aurel Busche studies brain circuits (inter-connected groups of brain cells) and has observed abnormal electrical patterns during the early stages of Alzheimer’s. He believes this is caused by the build-up of toxic proteins during the disease and is working to identify drug targets that block these harmful changes and help people with the condition.Find out more about Dr Marc Aurel Busche’s research in this Q&A
Some of the earliest changes in dementia are thought to occur at the intersection between our nervous, immune and vascular systems. At this point, a specialist structure known as the blood-brain barrier tightly regulates the exchange of substances between the blood and the brain. Dr Blanca Díaz-Castro is investigating how the cells that make up this barrier may become dysfunctional during disease and finding ways to maintain a healthy microenvironment in the brain.Find out more about Dr Blanca Díaz-Castro’s research in this Q&A
Postdoctoral researcher, Dr Isabel Bravo-Ferrer studies the interactions (blue) between cells that make up the blood-brain barrier, including astrocytes (magenta) and endothelial cells (green), to find out more about changes that occurs in our blood vessels as we age or develop dementia.
Everything we do to understand the underlying causes of dementia must ultimately move forward the search for life-changing treatments and technology. Clinicians like Prof Sarah Tabrizi are central to the success of that mission. Her groundbreaking research targeting the production of toxic proteins is now being tested in human drug trials, offering new hope for those living with Huntington’s disease.