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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

Research project: Understanding the role of early-life inflammation on the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease

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Project type: 
Studentship

This project aims to investigate the impact of early-life systemic inflammation on the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Microglial cells are the resident immune cells of the brain and play crucial roles in the regulation of normal and pathological neural functions. This PhD project will investigate how risk factors associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease modulate the physiology of microglia, helping to better understand the roles of these cells in the brain, through a multidisciplinary approach using in vivo models, genetic molecular tools and analysis of brain function.

Our immune response is usually a defensive mechanism, although it is well known that in people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), concomitant inflammation accelerates and exacerbates the disease. This is mediated by the brain’s main resident macrophage population, the microglia, which react to the onset of disease by increasing their number and switching to an activated state. In AD, microglia are “primed” by the pathology, showing an exacerbated response to subsequent systemic inflammation. A gap our knowledge, however, concerns how early-life pre-conditioning of microglia could influence the onset of AD. We will investigate the effect of repeated inflammatory challenges in early life, representing those frequently present in the human life course (bacterial or viral infections, stress, obesity), on the severity of AD-like pathology. This project will allow understanding the mechanisms that regulate the contribution of microglia to AD, supporting future preventative approaches to delay the onset of clinical symptoms.

 

Principle Investigator (PI): Dr Diego Gomez-Nicola
Secondary Supervisor: Dr Mariana Vargas-Caballero
Funding: The Gerald Kerkut Trust
Funding Duration: October 2017-September 2020

 

Related research groups

Biomedical Sciences
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