Alzheimer’s Research UK have awarded University of Southampton researchers a £500,000 grant to help fund a study examining the specific proteins in the brain linked to Frontotemperal Dementia (FTD).
Previous studies have suggested a connection between a build-up of Tau proteins in the brains of FTD patients and an inflammatory reaction, preventing the body’s immune system from reacting to the disease, and in turn helping the disease to spread. Researchers will evaluate the immune response to Tau proteins by comparing the donated brain tissue of healthy people to samples from people diagnosed with FDT.
While dementia is a general term used to describe brain disorders where a person loses some of their brain’s functions, FDT is the second-most common form of dementia for people under the age of 65. It mainly affects the front and sides of the brain (frontal and temporal lodes), causing problems with behaviour and language. About 1 in 3 people diagnosed with FDT have prior history of the disease in the family, suggesting also a genetic link.
In a university press release, Professor Delphine Boche, who specialises in neuroimmunopathology and will lead the study, said:
This study has the potential to unravel innovative and informative aspects of the pathophysiology of this particular dementia
Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s UK, also commented:
We are delighted to be supporting this pioneering research into frontotemporal dementia in Southampton. There are around 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia, with nearly 20,000 in Hampshire alone. Dementia is one of our greatest medical challenges and projects such as this, which aim to understand the diseases that cause the condition, offer real hope in the search for life-changing treatments.
This isn’t the first time University of Southampton researchers have received funding from Alzheimer’s Research UK for research into Alzheimer’s and dementia. In 2012, £28,656 was granted to a two-year pilot project exploring the role of immune cells in the brain called micrologia and previous research suggesting that people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s tended to have higher than average numbers of these cells.
Two years later, a study into the failures of an attempted Alzheimer’s vaccine was also partially funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK and led by Dr Delphine Boche. The findings were published in the Journal of Pathology revealing that as well as removing the protein Amyloid, a noted characteristic in Alzheimer’s disease, the vaccine caused nerve cell death, helping explain brain shrinking observed in those who had taken the vaccine. However, remaining nerve cells were in better health than before, suggesting that earlier use of the vaccine might have resulted in its effects on the brain slowing the deterioration in symptoms.
Finally, in 2016 two separate studies into aspects of Alzheimer’s disease received £50,000 funding each from Alzheimer’s Research UK. This included arguably a forerunner to the new study, with Dr Mariana Vargas-Cabellero, a lecturer in neuroscience, leading an 18-month long study exploring via specially bred mice the effect of a build-up of the proteins amyloid and tau in the brain.
Combined with the recent news of Southampton City Council’s aspiration to make the city a ‘dementia-friendly’ place working with the Alzheimer’s Society and numerous local organisations, it seems that the city of Southampton is at the forefront of efforts toward combating the effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s.