Dementia refers to a set of symptoms that may include memory loss or difficulties in thinking, problem-solving or language. There is a common misconception that dementia is a normal part of ageing. In fact, dementia only appears when our brains are impaired by neurodegenerative diseases. These diseases cause a loss of functions in brain cells. While these diseases mostly affect the older population, they can also affect younger individuals. The most commonly known neurodegenerative disease include Alzheimer’s Disease, Frontotemporal Dementia and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.
Over the past 15 years, dementia has become the leading cause of death worldwide and the number of cases continues to rise in the UK. There are still no effective treatments for the neurodegenerative diseases that lead to dementia and many questions remain as to the root causes. The UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI) is here to change that and is the single biggest investment the UK has ever made in dementia thanks to £290 million from founding funders the Medical Research Council (MRC), Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK. Revolutionary in scale and scope, and with collaboration at its core, the UK DRI brings together diverse expertise to accelerate the discovery, development and delivery of interventions that will help diagnose, treat and ultimately prevent dementia.
Led by Centre Director Professor Chris Shaw, the UK DRI at King’s focuses on identifying the cellular and molecular events that lead to the death of neurons, particularly in Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Although distinct in the areas of the nervous system affected, these diseases do share common clinical features and it is hoped that knowledge uncovered at the centre can be used to slow or halt the death of neurons at the earliest stages of several diseases.
Our key questions:
- At the cellular level, which proteins in the human body are affected in dementia — what are the causes and consequences?
- How does dementia affect neuronal functions such as the communications between neurons or the structural integrity of the neurons?
- What are the commonalities between different neurodegenerative diseases causing dementia?
- What tools and technologies can we develop to improve the diagnosis and treatment of dementia?
- At the physiological level, what existing gene therapy can we use to develop treatments for dementia-affected brain or spinal cord?
The five UK DRI Group Leaders and their research focuses:
- Professor Chris Shaw (Centre Director): Gene Therapy
- Professor Annalisa Pastore: RNA - Protein Interaction
- Dr Marc-David Ruepp: RNA Metabolism
- Dr Sarah Mizielinska: Nucleocytoplasmic Transport
- Professor Kei Cho: Synapse Weakening
Members of our centre at the UK DRI Connectome 2019.