Investigating the link between traumatic brain injury and neurodegenerative disease
Dr Lucia Li, Postdoctoral Researcher (UK DRI Care Research & Technology)
Project title: Investigating the link between systemic inflammation and neurodegeneration after traumatic brain injury.
Dr Li is interested in how traumatic brain injuries (TBI), such as those caused by heavy contact sports, can cause ongoing loss of brain cells even after initial apparent recovery, leading to dementias in later life. This project aims to characterise inflammation in the brains of people who have experienced TBI, and advance our understanding of the relationship between TBI and neurodegeneration.
‘Social robots’ to assess and monitor emotional wellbeing of people with dementia
Dr Maitreyee Wairagkar, Postdoctoral Researcher (UK DRI Care Research & Technology)
Project title: Automated Assessment of Emotional Wellbeing of People with Dementia
Dementia can lead to emotional changes and symptoms such as agitation, frustration, confusion, panic, restlessness and apathy, which can be challenging to monitor and manage. Dr Wairagkar’s project aims to develop an automated system to assess and monitor the emotional wellbeing of people with dementia using a ‘social robot’ based on a mobile device paired with a wearable smartwatch.
Investigating the role of the BIN1 gene in microglia
Dr Natalie Connor-Robson, Emerging Leader (UK DRI at Cardiff)
Project title: The Role of the Alzheimer’s Risk Gene BIN1 in Human Microglial Function
Genome wide association studies (GWAS) are large-scale studies looking at the genetic profile of a population. Recent GWAS studies for Alzheimer’s disease have identified that changes in the disease are concentrated in genes of the endocytic pathway. This pathway helps cells manage their waste by recycling and sorting cellular machinery, keeping them functioning normally. GWAS studies have identified common disease-associated changes in the endocytic gene BIN1. Dr Connor-Robson’s work will use stem cells to study the effect of reducing BIN1 in microglia, the immune cells of the brain. It is hoped that this knowledge will increase understanding of how microglia interact with neurons and whether they need BIN1 to maintain a healthy environment for cells in the brain.
Repurposing a highly sensitive technique to detect neurodegenerative disease
Dr Matthew Cheetham, Postdoctoral Researcher (UK DRI at Cambridge)
Project title: Plasmonic sensing of protein aggregates for early detection of neurodegenerative disease
Clumps of protein known as aggregates are hallmark s of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, believed to be involved in death of neurons seen in both these diseases. Early detection of these conditions is difficult due to a lack of techniques sensitive enough to detect the presence of protein aggregates. The brain (where aggregates are formed) is difficult to access, and only trace amounts of aggregates show up in the blood. Dr Cheetham’s project aims to repurpose an existing highly sensitive technique to enable the detection in the blood, in order to improve early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Congratulations to the successful awardees, and we look forward to seeing their progress over the next year.
Read previous news stories to find out about the projects selected for the first, second and third rounds of the pilot awards programme. UK DRI researchers can stay updated on calls and deadlines for funding rounds via the UK DRI Portal.
Article published: 10 June 2022
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