There are currently 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, with over 16,000 in South Yorkshire alone. With no treatment able to halt the diseases that cause dementia, the condition is one of the greatest challenges facing modern medicine.
Dr Julie Simpson will supervise Anjana Ajikumar in her PhD project as she aims to uncover how infections could be driving damage in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.
Dr Simpson said: “We’re very pleased to have this new boost in our region. We want to explore how infections and therefore inflammation in the body could affect the brain, and how leakiness in the blood brain barrier contributes towards damage in the brain. Targeting inflammation could be crucial in helping to tackle the damage occurring in Alzheimer’s, and this project will allow us to identify key processes that could be targeted with new treatments for those affected.”
Scientists are increasingly recognising the role that the immune system plays in dementia. Many carers of people with dementia often notice that symptoms get worse after an infection, suggesting that what happens in the body could be affecting the brain.
In the second project, Prof Stephen Wharton will train up student Hemant Mistry as he unpicks how cholesterol could be causing damage in Alzheimer’s disease.
Prof Wharton said: “The role of cholesterol in Alzheimer’s disease is complex, with a vicious cycle of cholesterol affecting nerve cell function, which feeds back to further disrupt cholesterol production. By understanding the genes influencing how cholesterol is made in the brain and how they are altered in Alzheimer’s, we will gain important insights into a process that we hope could be targeted by new treatments.”