A Scottish university professor has been awarded a prestigious prize for her ground-breaking work on dementia.
Dr Amy Lloyd from the University of Dundee has been awarded the Jean Corsan prize by Alzheimer’s Research UK for the best scientific paper by an early-career researcher.
Dr Lloyd will receive a £2,000 personal prize for her pioneering research into the brain’s resident immune cells, known as microglia.
Her research paper shows how microglia can contribute to damage in diseases like Alzheimer’s.
In healthy brains, microglia act like vacuum cleaners, removing waste produced normally in the brain as well as the toxic proteins that build-up in Alzheimer’s and other diseases.
This process is vital for protecting nerve cells from damage.
However, microglia can also become overactive and cause harmful inflammation that damages nerve cells in the brain.
Dr Lloyd’s research paper shows that for the brain to recover from damage, overactive microglia need to die so that more helpful microglia can move in and carry out their job.
The brain’s immune system is seen as the new frontier in tackling neurodegenerative diseases and this process is now being explored as a treatment option for diseases like multiple sclerosis.
The prize is ordinarily presented at Alzheimer’s Research UK’s annual Research Conference, however, this has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
In light of this, Dr Lloyd has joined other scientists to share her work as part of a virtual Twitter conference, ensuring scientific understanding about dementia continues to grow worldwide.
Dr Lloyd said: “The brain’s immune system is complex, with microglia acting as both a critical defence mechanism and a key driver of damage to the brain.
“With the state-of-the-art facilities here in Dundee, I have the chance to thoroughly investigate microglia, and better understand how they contribute to diseases like Alzheimer’s.
“Winning the Jean Corsan prize is the highlight of my career so far. As soon as I heard I rang my mum! It’s an honour to receive this award by Alzheimer’s Research UK.”
Dr Carol Routledge, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK said: “Making new breakthroughs in understanding the complex causes of diseases that cause dementia requires dedication and innovative thinking.
“It’s great that we have young, inspiring researchers in Scotland working on getting us one step closer to changing people’s lives. We congratulate Dr Lloyd on her well-deserved win.”