FOUR SCOTTISH universities have joined forces to study how lifestyle factors may lead to dementia.
The new research programme will investigate the relationship between blood flow and the changes within the brain that cause dementia.
Researchers say that a reduction in blood flow can impair memory and is one of the known early changes in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Diet, exercise and other factors affect the amount of blood that reaches brain and so the study will look at how this affects memory.
The project will be led by Edinburgh University and has been funded by the Alzheimer’s Society and is the biggest funding commitment that has been made to support early-career dementia researchers in the UK.
The funds will establish a new doctoral training centre for PhD students in Edinburgh and across the three partner universities which are Aberdeen, St Andrews and Dundee.
Some of the PhD students will investigate the role of diet and other lifestyle factors in regulating blood flow, and the way this alters brain function.
Others will look at dementia in mice and whether drugs aimed at combatting reduced blood flow can impact the course of the disease.
The researchers hope that by better understanding the interaction between lifestyle choices and blood circulation, they can uncover new targets for drug therapies.
Prof Karen Horsburgh, of the Centre for Neuroregeneration at the University of Edinburgh, who is leading the centre, said: “Understanding more about the causes of Alzheimer’s disease and ways to prevent it from developing, either through lifestyle changes or drug treatments, is incredibly important in order to reduce the number of people living with the condition.”
Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at the Alzheimer’s Society said: “There’s a huge amount of progress being made by the dementia research community but unless we attract and train the best young talent we will limit how quickly we can make ground breaking discoveries.
“For too long dementia research has been underfunded and as a result we have significantly fewer scientists than other conditions, with six times more people working in cancer than dementia.
“If we’re going to defeat dementia we need to give the best brains the right opportunities and build a research workforce that is fit for the future.
“That’s why we’re proud to be announcing the largest investment of its kind, which will see £5 million committed to create the next generation of dementia researchers.
“People with dementia deserve nothing less than an all-out fightback against the condition and our Doctoral Training Centres will help us enlist the right people to lead it.”