Meet Charlie Arber, Alzheimer’s Society Senior Research Fellow at UCL Institute of Neurology, London.
- Film – Austin Powers or Ace Ventura. Anything silly.
- Way to spend time – Chasing a ball: cricket, tennis, golf, rugby.
- Memory – Long sunny walks with my two-year-old during the first lockdown.
Why dementia research?
I am so fascinated by the brain. It is the most complex thing in the known universe and we all have one. How on earth does it work?
Stem cells offer a brand new way to understand how the brain works and to study how the brain becomes damaged in dementia. For the first time, we can study human brain cells in a dish.
Dementia represents the greatest healthcare challenge to our generation, and so this tool can add to our understanding to defeat the diseases that cause it.
How has Alzheimer’s Society supported your work?
I was lucky enough to be awarded a fellowship from Alzheimer’s Society. My work is funded for three years by the Society and my current work would not have been possible without this support.
What are you currently working on?
My project looks at how different brain cells react to inflammation. Support cells (called astrocytes) and the brain’s immune cells (microglia) react to the damage caused by dementia and start inflammation in an attempt to heal.
I am looking at how the genes responsible for inherited forms of Alzheimer’s disease might affect this inflammatory response.
What difference do you hope this will make?
If we can understand brain inflammation better, we might be able to find early markers of Alzheimer’s disease and that will help in early diagnosis.
Additionally, if we see that differences in specific genes affect the inflammatory response, we could target these processes with existing drugs to limit the damage and help the brain repair itself.
In what direction would you like to take your research in future?
We still understand so little of the biology behind Alzheimer’s disease. For example, what does amyloid –a protein that builds up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s – do in a healthy brain? These questions are fundamental if we are to reverse the disease.
The things we can do with stem cells are evolving very quickly and I think it will be so important to understand the effect that variations in some genes have on healthy brain biology.
I would love to work towards a deeper understanding of the brain’s immune system. I really believe that this will be key to fighting dementia.
What can you do to help?
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