Dr Giordano Pula from our Department of Pharmacy & Pharmacology has just been awarded £29,000 by Alzheimer’s Research UK to study vascular complications of Alzheimer’s disease.

The study, funded by the UK’s leading dementia research charity, aims to understand how blood cells and blood vessels can be affected during the disease and to shed light on why people with Alzheimer’s also seem more prone to vascular problems, such as stroke. The work will be carried out in collaboration with Dr Ilaria Canobbio and Professor Mauro Torti from the University of Pavia (Italy).

A hallmark feature of Alzheimer’s disease is the build-up of a protein called amyloid in the brain. As well as building up between nerve cells, amyloid is also present in blood and, in some cases, can build up inside blood vessels. There is evidence that amyloid could trigger blood cells called platelets to behave abnormally. This could cause complications like inflammation and clots and drive the disease to get worse.

Dr Pula said: “This funding will allow us to look in more detail at how amyloid might have a damaging effect on the vascular system. We will study how amyloid affects vascular health, and how vascular complications participate in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.”

The researchers will study how amyloid interacts with platelets, the circulating cells responsible for blood clotting, and the lining of our blood vessels. In particular, they will study whether presence of amyloid makes platelets clot more readily.

Dr Pula added: “Understanding how amyloid is influencing blood vessels and blood clotting could help to explain what is driving the disease and also why some patients have complications such as stroke. This knowledge will be really important for improving healthcare for patients with Alzheimer’s, so we are incredibly grateful to Alzheimer’s Research UK for the funding.”

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Research is making it ever clearer that Alzheimer’s is a hugely complex disease that affects many different processes in the brain. It is important for research to understand how different aspects of brain function are affected in the disease, so that we can develop better ways to improve the quality of life for people living with this devastating disease. With around half a million people in the UK living with Alzheimer’s, we must continue to fight for dementia research to be a national priority.”