Early career researchers looking at a desktop screen of brain scans

5 ways our new early career researchers are helping defeat dementia

After a year of uncertainty, your support means we are funding eight early career researchers – the bright research leaders of the future – to carry out crucial research to defeat dementia.

Over the past year, vital dementia research has taken a hit regarding funding and progress.

The coronavirus pandemic saw the temporary closure of labs, research projects on hold and we were forced to pause our research funding programme.

We believe research will defeat dementia. However, the knock-on impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak put our mission in jeopardy.

Despite the challenges, the dementia research community pulled together and remained resilient, ensuring the momentum driving dementia discoveries was not lost.

Preventing a lost generation of researchers

One group who have been particularly affected by the pandemic are dementia researchers at the start of their careers. PhD students and postdoctoral researchers represent the future leaders in dementia research.

Less financial support for the field not only threatens research today but further down the line – as bright minds move to other more well-funded fields. This would be a devastating blow.

A future without dementia demands continued research. This will enable us to fully understand the diseases causing the condition, develop effective treatments and improve the lives of those living with dementia. Without early career researchers, these advancements would not be possible.

In Autumn 2020, we published a letter to the government Science Minister highlighting these issues in a request for more funding. We will stand up to protect our early career researchers to ensure their research is prioritised.

How we are supporting early career researchers

Thanks to your support over the past year, we are now able to fund early career researchers whose work has hung in the balance due to the pandemic.

We are investing over £800,000 into exciting research projects led by PhD students and postdoctoral fellows. Not only will these projects advance dementia research but they will help secure the positions for our dementia researcher leaders of tomorrow. 

Our early career researchers are carrying out a diverse range of dementia research centred around making life better for those with dementia now and defeating dementia in the future.

Your support from 2020 is helping our new early career researchers understand:

1. How certain factors could increase the risk of developing dementia

It is becoming clear the risk for developing dementia can be altered by genetics and lifestyle factors. Understanding how these processes lessen or increase dementia development is crucial for dementia prevention.

We are funding PhD projects aimed at understanding dementia risk related to an Alzheimer’s disease genetic risk factor with Professor Paul Morgan and poor oral health with Dr Jing Kang.

2. How brain cells die in diseases causing dementia

The loss of brain cells called neurons is central to the diseases which cause dementia. However, scientists still do not fully understand this process. Uncovering these mechanisms could provide new drug targets for therapies.

Two of our new early career researchers will be learning more about these causes of dementia, focusing on disruption to our cell’s ‘waste clearance’ system with Dr Gemma Lace and clearing unwanted protein build-ups in the brain with Professor Ravi Acharya. 

3. How we could treat dementia

Scientists are trying to find treatments for the diseases which cause dementia. One way they are doing this is testing if existing drugs for other conditions could help treat dementia.

We are funding a PhD project, directed by Dr Teresa Niccoli, analysing the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ effects of a diabetes type II drug in dementia treatment. 

4. How we can improve the quality of life for those living with dementia

The wellbeing and quality of life for people living with dementia is incredibly important. Research can help us improve these daily experiences and three of our early career researchers are using data to drive developments.

We are funding projects which aim to develop dementia-friendly exercise classes by Dr Annabelle Long, optimise care home design by Loukia Minetou and remove stigma associated with dementia with Dr Nicolas Farina. 

5. How we can support with quality end-of-life care planning

When living with dementia, everyone should feel well-supported and reassured that plans are in place for the future. A key part of this process are discussions around end-of-life care.

We are funding research with Dr Nathan Davis which will analyse conversations between GPs, carers and people living with dementia to create a practical support package for GPs to deliver these conversations effectively.  

A huge thanks to you!

Without your support over the past year, these projects would be unable to go ahead and the careers of the incredibly bright researchers leading them would have remained on hold.

Your generous donations have meant these early career researchers can advance our knowledge of dementia both now and in the future. Supporting our future leaders in dementia research today is securing a place for dementia research tomorrow. Continued high-quality research is the key to understanding, helping and eventually treating dementia.

Thanks to your support, that future looks ever more possible. 

Support dementia research

You can continue to support our early career researchers through donations or sharing their work with your networks. Together, we will beat dementia.

Donate now
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