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£17 million awards add to momentum of UK neurodegenerative disease research

Three new research programmes focusing on devastating neurodegenerative diseases – Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and motor neurone disease – have received £17 million from the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council (MRC).

The multi-disciplinary collaborations aim to provide a better understanding of the causes of these diseases in a bid to improve early diagnosis and develop more effective therapies.

Cambridge Neuroscientist Professor Peter St George-Hyslop, at the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, University of Cambridge, is the Principal Investigator for the Alzheimer’s disease and related neurodegenerative disorders project.

The program combines experts from Cambridge, the Max Planck Centre for Structural and Molecular Biology in Hamburg, and the University of Toronto to investigate some of the fundamental events surrounding the aggregation of neurotoxic proteins such as tau and Abeta.

As such, it will employ tools from physics, chemistry, chemical engineering, photonics, genetics, cell biology, molecular biology, neurophysiology, systems biology to ask questions such as: what are the physical properties of the neurotoxic species of these proteins; what do they interact with in/on cells; what are the cellular metabolic and signalling pathways that they modulate; what are the specific biological mechanisms that relate Abeta and tau aggregation in Alzheimer's disease; and why are the cellular systems for the removal of misfolded proteins (such as autophagy) apparently overwhelmed? It is hoped that this knowledge will give rise to a better understanding of the process, and this in turn may form the basis of future attempts to design diagnostic biomarkers/biomarker profiles and provide targets for novel therapeutics.

Cambridge scientists working as co-Investigators include:

    * Timothy Bussey (Dept of Experimental Psychology)
    * Damian Crowther (Dept of Genetics)
    * Christopher Dobson (Dept of Chemistry)
    * Giorgio Favrin (Dept of Chemistry)
    * Clemens Kaminski (Dept of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology)
    * David Klenerman (Dept of Chemistry)
    * David Lomas (CIMR)
    * Cahir O’Kane (Dept of Genetics)
    * Stephen Oliver (Dept of Biochemistry)
    * David Rubinsztein (CIMR)
    * Lisa Saskida (Dept of Experimental Psychology)
    * Gergely Toth (Dept of Chemistry)
    * Michele Vendruscolo (Dept of Chemistry)

In addition to:

University of Bristol

    * Kei Cho
    * Graham Collingridge (MRC Centre for Synaptic Plasticity)

 Max-Planck-Unit for Structural Molecular Biology, Germany

    * Eckhard Mandelkow
    * Eva-Maria Mandelkow

 University of Toronto, Canada

    * Paul Fraser
    * Ekaterina Rogaeva
    * Gerold Schmitt-Ulms


The motor neurone disease and frontotemporal dementia research programme is led by Professor Christopher Shaw, MRC Centre for Neurodegeneration Research, King’s College London. This programme will focus on investigating RNA-processing proteins deposited in degenerating nerve cells and that rare mutations in three known genes cause a genetic form of these diseases.

The Parkinson’s disease research programme principal investigators are: Professors Nicholas Wood, John Hardy and Anthony Schapira, Institute of Neurology, University College London. They aim to dissect and understand the genetic architecture of Parkinson’s, to identify and characterise the biochemical pathways involved.

For further information about these new research programmes focusing on devastating neurodegenerative diseases please follow the links to the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council news pages. 

Announced on the 2nd November, 2009.

Posted on 03/11/2009

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