Scientists use stem cells in fight against Alzheimer's
BRISTOL scientists are using stem cell technology to learn more about the progression of Alzheimer's.
The Bristol University team has received £164,000 from Frenchay-based research charity Brace for the study.
They will use advances in stem-cell technology to convert cells from skin biopsies into nerve cells like those found in the brain.
These nerve cells will be created from patients with Alzheimer's so that they can establish the earliest abnormalities.
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The nerve cells are the main source of the chemical acetylcholine in the brain and degenerate in the early stages of Alzheimer's. Patients are already given drugs in an attempt to limit the impact of this degeneration.
Researchers will also be using nerve cells created from the skin of elderly people who are not affected by Alzheimer's so that they can make comparisons between the two.
Dr Maeve Caldwell, senior research fellow in the university's School of Clinical Sciences, is leading the study with Seth Love, professor of neuropathology in the Dementia Research Group.
She said: "We are extremely grateful to Brace for funding this study. The use of this adult stem cell approach should enable us in the future to test a range of hypotheses concerning the earliest abnormalities in Alzheimer's Disease, the environmental influences on their development, and the extent to which they can be prevented or reversed."
The researchers are also interested in exploring the nerve cells from people who have a gene linked with Alzheimer's to see whether they are more susceptible to chemical stress or if the production of acetylcholine from the nerve cells differs in people at lower risk of developing the dementia.
The research group expect these experiments to provide important new information on the behaviour and vulnerability to Alzheimer's of nerve cells from individual living people.
Mark Poarch, chief executive of Brace, said: "£164,000 is a lot of money, but it is the sum of much smaller donations and fundraising efforts by thousands of people. While big donations and legacies are always welcome, of course, it just shows that we can all make a difference, whatever our means.
"Brace will be 25 years old next year, and we hope that large numbers of local people and businesses will chip in to help us make it a great year in the fight against Alzheimer's."