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The University of Southampton

South Coast dementia researchers united by charity funding boost

Published: 3 September 2014

Researchers along the South Coast, including those from the University of Southampton, will be unified in their goal to defeat dementia.

In the lead up to World Alzheimer’s Day, the UK’s leading dementia research charity has announced new investment in a Research Network, bringing scientists together to defeat dementia.

Alzheimer’s Research UK will support 15 Network Centres of scientific excellence across the UK, including academic institutions along the South Coast.

The Universities of Southampton, Bournemouth and Sussex, along with the Brighton and Sussex Medical School, will receive £70,000 of new funding over two years. The investment is part of the charity’s £100m Defeat Dementia fundraising campaign, announced in June by the Prime Minister.

With calls from the G8 Dementia Summit in December for increased collaboration in dementia research, the Alzheimer’s Research UK Research Network brings together scientists from a variety of disciplines, throughout the UK. Teams of scientists who would not normally encounter each other are able to pool their expertise in projects that span the length of the country. South Coast scientists have been instrumental in contributing to important UK-wide studies, from the analysis of clinical trials in dementia to studying Alzheimer’s-related changes in the brain.

The University of Southampton first established an Alzheimer’s Research UK Network Centre in 2002 and since then has gone from strength to strength with scientists from the Bournemouth University Dementia Institute and Sussex joining over the years. Now with a membership of over 30 pioneering researchers, this fresh funding will provide new opportunities for cooperation between teams, allowing innovative ideas to be tested. The Network aims to support existing researchers as well as attracting new scientists to use their expertise to answer important questions in dementia.

Over 7,000 people in the three cities alone have dementia and it is essential that scientists not only work towards a cure, but act to help the local community better understand the condition. Every year, the Network Centre hosts a free public meeting, an informal event for the public to hear about the latest research findings. These events will foster dialogue between researchers and those touched by the condition, which can provide scientists with new insights into dementia and inspire new approaches to research.

Dr Eric Karran, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “We will not find a cure for dementia by working in isolation. Investment in our Research Network is essential to bring scientists together to share ideas and resources. Supporting grass-roots research is crucial to lay strong foundations for larger studies and we are pleased to be able to invest in people and ideas that could provide the breakthrough moments we are all desperate for.

“Alzheimer’s Research UK is leading the way in terms of investment in research, but it is also crucial that we foster collaborations – locally, nationally and internationally. The Research Network will unite researchers across the UK in tackling dementia from different angles, in order to meet our aim to defeat dementia sooner.”

Dr Amrit Mudher, Associate Professor at the University of Southampton and Co-ordinator of the South Coast Network Centre, said: “The South Coast is key to dementia research, with scientists and clinicians working together to understand and resolve a huge range of problems; from the structure of toxic proteins in the brain and how the immune system can alter disease progression, through to how changes in the brain cause learning and memory problems in people with Alzheimer’s. This cash injection to the South Coast allows us to learn from each other’s experiences and progress, to make sure we are answering the right questions that will ultimately lead to a cure for dementia in the future. The great benefit of the Alzheimer’s Research UK Research Network is that it allows scientists to place their findings in the wider context of dementia research, and draw on other people’s expertise to make the journey from interesting idea to patient benefit that much easier.”

Sam Hart, from Saltdean near Brighton, was shocked when her mum Teresa was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s five years ago at just 60. She said: “Mum was such a chatter-box, loved to socialise and did a lot for charity but alarm bells rang when she became withdrawn and increasingly forgetful. It took a while to encourage her to see the doctor. We were shocked at the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s at such a young age. Dad looked after her up until last year but now Mum needs 24-hour care in a nursing home. She struggles to recognise anyone, including family, and can no longer do anything for herself. It is devastating to see the effect the disease has had on my mum and I miss her terribly. It has opened our eyes to the need for more research to find the treatments so urgently needed. I’m so pleased that more funding is being made available for Alzheimer’s Research UK’s research experts in this part of the country.”


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