£900k invested in ground breaking dementia study at Strathclyde

By Rachael Morris

A pioneering stem cell study- involving two researchers from Strathclyde University – has received £900,000 in funding to develop new treatments for dementia.

Dr Selina Wray, of University College London, and two Strathclyde researchers, Dr Trevor Bushell and Dr Michele Zagnoni, have effectively transformed patient skin cells into nerve cells and shown a build-up of a protein called tau, similar to that found in the brains of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “The tau protein is thought to have a key role in diseases like Alzheimer’s and is a promising target for treatments.”

Dr Michele Zagnoni, Strathclyde Department of Electric and Electronic Engineering, said: “Utilising patient-derived neurons and engineering technology, we are in a position to examine, in a novel and accurate manner, neuronal dysfunction and how this contributes to dementia.

“Understanding how the disease works is the first step.”

According to Alzheimer Scotland, age is a leading factor in the development of dementia and of the 7,830 people living with the disease in Glasgow City, a massive 96 per cent are over the age of 65.

Dr Trevor Bushell, Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences said: “The impact and prevalence of dementia in society is growing and will continue to do so as the life expectancy of the general population continues to grow.”

Bushell, Zagnoni and Wray’s initial research was selected by the UnTangle Challenge as most promising over several other studies, and the project was awarded the full £900,000 funding.

Zagnoni continued: “By bringing together both neuroscientists and engineers, we are in a unique position to be able to screen novel compounds that may prove useful in treating dementia.

“This is an example of how multidisciplinary research, at which Strathclyde excels, is pushing the boundaries of healthcare.”