Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.
23 Sep 2019
What’s a datathon – and why should you care? Professor John Gallacher, the Director of Dementias Platform UK, reveals the inspiration behind their popular data-tastic events and the benefits they offer.
We started the datathon events to help equip scientists with the skills that they need to use our secure online environment, which contains health data for dementia research. In a nutshell, for three days up to 50 data scientists work together in small teams to begin tackling a research question using our data resource. [...]
Continue reading: Running datathons for dementia
26 Apr 2019
This Sunday, thousands of marathon runners will be pounding the streets of London, raising vital money for charities across the UK. Many will be powering ground-breaking dementia research by fundraising for the UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI) through the Dementia Revolution campaign. The UK DRI is the single biggest investment in dementia research ever launched in the UK, set up by the MRC and charity founders Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK. Here, two runners with a very special connection to tackling dementia tell their story about what research means to them.
Carli Pirie – Study participant – UK DRI
I started taking part in research because my family have a genetic mutation that results in early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. We lost my nan very young and then started noticing signs in my mum.
When she was being diagnosed, I felt a little helpless and like I was out of control, so I signed up to the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Network (DIAN) study. I felt that by taking part, I could give something towards the future. [...]
Continue reading: Running for the Dementia Revolution
29 Aug 2018
Dementias Platform UK is a world-leading digital treasure trove, holding health data from millions of people, to help understand and treat dementia. Their one-stop shop gives researchers access to health data for dementia research and recognises contributions from researchers across the pay grade. Director Professor John Gallacher explains why it’s good for science and scientists.
Professor John Gallacher, Director of the Dementias Platform UK
In the UK, we’re fortunate to have a growing, rich resource of data from people that take part in studies which follow their health and lifestyle choices over time, known as cohort studies.
But there isn’t a single standardised way of storing and analysing this information. Without the right tools to search, interrogate and analyse this information, the data can seem impenetrable.
At Dementias Platform UK (DPUK) we have a solution – a place for researchers to access all the data they need to answer some of the toughest questions about dementia. We want the best minds to access the best data, regardless of their location. [...]
Continue reading: How secure data sharing can help us treat dementia
26 Jun 2018
Patient data has the power to revolutionise our approach to medical research and help improve human health. We’re funding scientists to use big data to tackle some of the biggest health challenges, including neurodegeneration. Here Ed Pinches, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, tells us why access to large data sets is so important in our fight against dementia.
It’s the hot topic, the subject dominating much of the latest news. Data. Your data. How it is used, how it is stored, who gets to access it, and for what purpose?
Continue reading: The power of big data
30 Nov 2017
As a runner-up in our 2017 Max Perutz Science Writing Award, PhD student Sophie Quick, of the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, explains why her research – focused on a condition called small vessel disease which can cause dementia – matters.
Strawberry picking might not seem like the place for scientific inspiration, but on a warm summers day just weeks into my PhD, I returned not just with a punnet of Scotland’s finest fruits but a new take on my research. Sheltered by a gently flapping plastic roof I bent to pluck a handful of ripe berries, spotted fine tubes running along the soil and was struck by an idea. [...]
Continue reading: Watering the strawberry fields of the mind
7 Nov 2017
In her runner-up article for our 2017 Max Perutz Science Writing Award Nadine Mirza, a PhD student at the University of Manchester, explains why changes are needed to a routine test for diagnosing dementia, unbiased by language or culture, to prevent incorrect diagnoses.
Have you heard the saying “No ifs ands or buts”? Associated with grannies and teachers, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t. It’s also a saying used in the ACE, a test implemented across the UK to detect dementia. An individual has to read the saying out loud with correct pronunciation. When directly translated into Urdu it loses meaning and becomes gibberish and reading out gibberish isn’t a smooth task. Even a fluent Urdu speaker might fail. But would we attribute that to dementia? Apparently, yes. [...]
Continue reading: Avoiding gibberish when assessing for dementia
21 Sep 2017
Alois Alzheimer first described his eponymous disease a century ago, but there are still no effective treatments. For World Alzheimer’s Day, Professor Bart de Strooper, Director of the UK Dementia Research Institute, asks why that is, and tells us how that might all be about to change.
Professor Bart de Strooper
In the early 1900s, a German neurologist called Alois Alzheimer became obsessed with studying an Asylum patient in her 50s, who had started to show unusual behavioural changes, including short-term memory loss. After her death he examined her brain and discovered structures known as amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles – the hallmarks of what became known as Alzheimer’s disease. So why, when we’ve known about the disease for so long, are there still no treatments? [...]
Continue reading: Dementia: why don’t we have any treatments yet?
20 Apr 2017
Research published today, funded by the MRC* and the Alzheimer’s Society’s Drug Discovery programme, has made important progress in the search for new treatments for dementia by re-purposing old drugs. Dr Louise Walker, Research Communications Officer at the Alzheimer’s Society, spoke to the scientist who led the research, Professor Giovanna Mallucci at the MRC Toxicology Unit, to find out more.
Alzheimer’s disease and other degenerative brain diseases are characterised by the presence of misfolded proteins in the brain. These proteins are thought to have toxic effects on brain cells, but exactly how they contribute to dementia still remains a mystery. [...]
Continue reading: Teaching old drugs new tricks
14 Dec 2015
In a previous blog post Susan Jonas explained why she plans to donate her brain to research. But what happens to a brain once it reaches a brain bank? How is it handled to make sure it is in the best possible state to use in research? Here Dr Candida Tasman and Dr Laura Palmer from the South West Dementia Brain Bank at the University of Bristol explain.
Read more about Laura Palmer’s working life.
Find out more about brain banking on our website. [...]
Continue reading: What happens to a donated brain?
14 Dec 2015
Dr Laura Palmer is the manager of the South West Dementia Brain Bank at the University of Bristol, which is part of the MRC-led UK Brain Banks Network. Here she tells us about her working life, the pressure of a part-time PhD, and why people are always fascinated by her job.
Career in brief
- Undergraduate degree in pathology and microbiology
- Eleven years at the South West Dementia Brain Bank, starting as the bank technician and becoming brain bank manager
- Part-time PhD over eight years while working at the bank
As soon as I saw a job at the bank advertised I knew it was perfect for me. It brought together my degree knowledge with my interest in dementia stemming from my grandma’s vascular dementia. I didn’t have all of the necessary experience but I was persistent and keen to learn. At the time of my interview I was working nights in a supermarket!
Things have changed dramatically in the brain bank while I’ve been here. We’ve really grown and developed – we used to accept about 12 donations a year, now it’s more like 40. Public awareness of brain donation has increased really positively.
I called my PhD the ‘never-ending thesis’. It took eight years when I’d hoped to complete it in six. I began it part-time within about a year of starting to work here, funded by a wonderful local charity called BRACE which supports a lot of the bank’s work. Balancing my PhD with my job and trying to have a life was really difficult. It’s fantastic to be able to focus solely on my job now. [...]
Continue reading: Working life: Brain bank manager Dr Laura Palmer