Research

Bristol and Bath researchers join forces in battle against dementia

Researchers from our Faculty of Science will join forces with GW4 partner the University of Bristol as part of a major new initiative to tackle dementia. New funding announced by leading dementia research charity Alzheimer's Research UK will support a Research Network, one of 15 Network Centres of scientific excellence across the UK looking into causes and possible treatments for dementia.

The Universities of Bath and Bristol will receive a much-needed boost in investment, benefiting from £70,000 over two years, with continued support pledged for the coming 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 Network brings together scientists from a variety of disciplines, both within their own institution, in neighbouring centres of academic excellence and 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.

Scientists in Bristol and Bath first established an Alzheimer’s Research UK Network Centre in 2000, which since then has gone from strength to strength with researchers from the University of the West of England joining over the years. Now with a membership of over 60 scientists, 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. Each Network Centre can use their funding to support local researchers through travel grants, equipment grants and by funding small pump-priming projects. Additionally, collaborations are forged throughout the country; Bristol based scientists have been instrumental in contributing to important UK-wide studies, including a study into how blood pressure drugs can affect the progression of Alzheimer’s and using brain banks to understand the blood vessel changes that occur in dementia.

Over 13,000 people in the Bath and Bristol region 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.

Professor Roy Jones, Honorary Professor at the University of Bath and Director of RICE (The Research Institute for the Care of Older People) at the Royal United Hospital said: “Our joint network centre initially began when we developed links between RICE, which carries out research directly involving people with dementia and their families, and the University of Bristol.

"Since then it has expanded to involve a number of researchers in the laboratories at the University of Bath and has allowed us to develop important links between researchers from different scientific and medical backgrounds. It has encouraged the development of projects involving basic scientists and people like myself who see people with dementia on a daily basis and this funding is a very welcome boost in helping us to maintain and further develop these important links.”

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.”

Professor Jane Millar, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), said: "Across the world, as populations age and people live longer, one of the major future health challenges will be in dealing with a rise in the number of cases of Alzheimer's Disease. I am excited by the potential of this new GW4 initiative which, feeding into national Research Network Centres across the UK, will help progress research in tackling this debilitating disease for so many in society."

Alzheimer's Research UK is holding a free event on Thursday 4 September in Bath, where the public can meet dementia researchers and hear about the latest treatments and research. Please contact Jo McTiernan on 0117 4142402 or email uob-aruk-event@bristol.ac.uk to book your free place.

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