Lancaster University

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Lancaster University seeking Alzheimer’s breakthrough

09/03/2008 08:35:32

Professor David Allsop
Professor David Allsop

Lancaster University is taking part in a multi-million pound international research project which aims to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

Funded by the European Union ‘Nanoparticles for the therapy and diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease’ (NAD) was launched this month.

The project will harness developments in nanotechnology to seek early diagnosis and effective treatment of the neurodegenerative disease which can have devastating effects on the lives of sufferers and their families.

Financed by the European Union's 7th Framework Program, the project will have a total cost of 14.6 million euros, 480,000 euros of which will go to fund research in Professor David Allsop’s group in the newly formed Division of Biomedical and Life Sciences, School of Health and Medicine, at Lancaster University.

The NAD Project brings together leading research scientists from 18 other collaborating research centers, in Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Slovakia, Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark, Hungary, Finland, Greece, Belgium and the UK.

Professor David Allsop said: “Somewhere in the world there is a new case of dementia diagnosed every seven seconds. The majority of these people are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. But despite great progress in the scientific field, which has made interpretation of the molecular bases of the disease possible, so far there has been little progress in improved diagnosis and therapy.”

“The goal of this study is to create very small nanoparticles that are able to cross the blood-brain barrier to reach the brain, the principal site of Alzheimer's disease. Molecules that can recognize (diagnosis) and destroy (therapy) the amyloid plaque of the illness will be attached to these nanoparticles.”

“Research in our laboratory at Lancaster has already identified candidate molecules that, potentially, could be used for this purpose. If the expectations of the research are realized, the results can be expected to have an enormous impact on the early diagnosis and cure of this highly distressing disease.”

Professor Peter Diggle of Lancaster University’s School of Health and Medicine said: "This project exemplifies Lancaster School of Health and Medicine's commitment to translational research, whereby fundamental scientific discoveries lead directly to improvements in the treatment of disease and to public health in general."

Related research at Lancaster University aims to develop improved methods for the diagnosis and treatment of other neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and motor neuron disease, and is supported by further funding from the EU (Framework 6), The Medical Research Council, The Alzheimer’s Society, The George Barton Trust, and a small biotechnology company called Zapaloid. Total research funding at Lancaster in this area now exceeds £1 million.

Recent statistics indicate that 24.3 million people worldwide are affected by dementia with 4.6 million new cases per year. In Europe there are 5 million cases of dementia, 3 million of which are classified as Alzheimer's. Given the continuing increase in life expectancy, these numbers are expected to rise dramatically. In 2040 cases are expected to double in Western Europe and to triple in Eastern Europe.