A new UK DRI initiative to create an ‘atlas’ of the brain at different stages of Alzheimer’s disease is set to rapidly improve our understanding of the processes that lead to people developing the illness. This will be the first time that UK brain tissue resources have been coordinated on such a scale to study Alzheimer’s disease pathology at every stage of the illness.
Very little is known about what causes Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for around two thirds of all dementia cases (around 33 million people worldwide). There are still no treatments that can stop, slow or prevent it. Understanding the biological mechanisms behind the disease is essential to finding ways to treat it.
Our Multi-‘omics Atlas Project (MAP) will use an unprecedented range of advanced techniques to examine tissue from eight different regions of the brain. The aim is to gain a much fuller understanding of key cell characteristics, including what influences the genes of individual cells to be expressed, and the role of proteins and other factors on their function. The data obtained will be combined with information gathered from microscopic examination of the tissue, and with the medical history of each brain donor. Powerful new molecular imaging technology will be used to examine subtle but important differences in cell types and their relationships in the brain. From these data, scientists will be able to develop a better understanding of how individual cells function and interact with their environment.