Sheffield scientist given £70k of funding

A Sheffield scientist has received £70k of funding to shed light on a possible cause of damage to the brain in Alzheimer's disease.

Tuesday, 17th May 2016, 4:13 pm
Updated Tuesday, 24th May 2016, 12:58 pm
Dr Simon Bell, of the University of Sheffield, has been given £70,000 of funding from Alzhiemer's Research UK to shed some light on brain damage caused by the condition.

Dr Simon Bell of the University of Sheffield has received nearly £70K from Alzheimer’s Research UK as the country marks Dementia Awareness Week, an initiative to increase public awareness and understanding of dementia.

Star-shaped brain cells called astrocytes have a number of important functions, from supporting communication between nerve cells to defending the brain from infections.

The new funding will enable Dr Bell and a team at Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) to study how astrocytes are affected in people with Alzheimer’s, which affects around 850,000 in the UK.

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Dr Bell said: “We are delighted to have secured this funding from Alzheimer’s Research UK for research that will increase our understanding of the causes of Alzheimer’s and could provide important groundwork for the development of future treatments. There are around 90 billion nerve cells in the human brain but, large as this number is, they are outnumbered many times over by astrocytes. The role of astrocytes in diseases like Alzheimer’s is not well understood but we suspect they do not function as they normally would.

The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease begin to appear when nerve cells in the brain become damaged and can no longer communicate with one another.

While research focusing on these cells is crucial, other types of cell in the brain may also have an important role to play in the disease.

Dr Rosa Sancho, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “There are around half a million people in the UK living with Alzheimer’s and with no new treatments in over a decade, studies like this pioneering project offer real hope in the fight against dementia.

“It is only thanks to the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to fund vital dementia research like Dr Bell’s project.”