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MRC awards £1.5 million for project examining genes in Alzheimer’s disease

3 Types Of Brain Cell Juan Gaertner Shutterstock

The Medical Research Council (MRC) has awarded £1.5 million to fund research into gene expression associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Led by Prof Jonathan Mill (University of Exeter), in collaboration with UK DRI Emerging Leader, Dr Sarah Marzi (UK DRI at Imperial), and researchers from the Universities of Essex and Bristol, the team will investigate changes between different brain cell types, to better understand disease mechanism and uncover new treatment opportunities.

Whilst genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease have been identified, it is unclear which genes play a key role in neurodegeneration, and particularly in which cell types this occurs. To try to resolve this, the researchers plan to analyse the gene expression patterns of individual cell types involved in Alzheimer’s, all of which play a different, and not fully understood, role in disease. If successful, the findings will help improve understanding of the cellular and molecular events driving Alzheimer’s disease, forming a foundation for new drug targets and therapeutics.

Dr Sarah Marzi (UK DRI at Imperial), co-investigator on the study, said:

“I am absolutely delighted to be part of this brilliant team and exciting project to comprehensively profile gene regulation in Alzheimer's disease. I am optimistic that by systematically studying regulatory variation in disease-relevant cell types, we can pinpoint early disease mechanisms to specific cell types and untangle downstream consequences, giving us the best shot at identifying targeted prevention strategies and treatments.

Study lead Prof Jonathan Mill (University of Exeter) said:

“We’re delighted that our project has been funded by the Medical Research Council. By identifying genomic changes in specific cell-types in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease, we will be in a unique position to understand more about the molecular processes involved in this terrible condition and identify pathways that can be hopefully targeted by novel drugs and treatments.”

The results of the upcoming project promise to have a substantial impact on our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease. To maximise this opportunity, the researchers will make the project data generated openly accessible to benefit the wider research community and stimulate dementia research around the world.

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