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Major boost for Alzheimer’s disease research

Press release issued: 8 August 2006

Two research projects into Alzheimer’s disease have been given £272,000 by the Alzheimer’s Research Trust.

The University of Bristol has received a £272,000 boost from the Alzheimer’s Research Trust for research into Alzheimer’s disease.

Work on the two projects is due to start at the John James Laboratory, Department of Clinical Science at North Bristol located at Frenchay Hospital in the next couple of months.

Seth Love, Professor of Neuropathology at the University and Consultant in Neuropathology at Frenchay, will be leading on both projects.

He said: “The Dementia Research Group at Frenchay is making exciting progress in understanding the mechanisms of nerve cell damage in Alzheimer's disease.

“We are very grateful to the Alzheimer’s Research Trust for these grants, which will underpin a major expansion of our activities.

“The work we carry out throughout these studies will go a great way towards helping people suffering from the disease in the future.”

Project One - £202,000 from the Alzheimer’s Research Trust

The first project will examine, in more detail than ever before, the link between Alzheimer’s disease and a lack of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

DHA is an essential fat that is required for a healthy brain and comes, mostly, from oily fish.

Previous research has shown that modern day diets contain relatively little DHA and that a deficiency of the acid in the food we eat has been linked to dementia.

Professor Love said: “There is contradictory information on DHA levels in brain tissue in Alzheimer’s disease.

“Previous studies looking at this link have used various methods, not always accurate and on only very small numbers of samples.

“What we will be doing for the first time is a large-scale study that relates the levels of DHA to the severity of Alzheimer’s disease-related changes within the brain and to the influence of genetic risk factors for the disease.”

Project Two - £70,000 from the Alzheimer’s Research Trust

A hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease is the accumulation within the brain of plaques – large insoluble aggregates of a protein known as Abeta (Aβ).

These deposits are formed by the clustering of much smaller, barely soluble aggregates (Aβ oligomers) that cannot easily be detected by conventional methods.

Recent cell culture findings suggest that the Aβ oligomers are much more toxic than are the larger plaques and may cause many of the degenerative changes in the brain in Alzheimer’s.

These observations have yet to be validated by detailed examination of brain tissue from patients with Alzheimer’s disease and healthy brains.

The Alzheimer’s Research Trust grant will fund a PhD student to carry out such an examination using sophisticated techniques that should provide critical information on the relationship between the amount and distribution of Aβ oligomers, and the formation of plaques and other degenerative changes that affect the brain in Alzheimer’s patients.

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