Could finding changes common to different types of dementia lead to treatments?

Research into changes that are common to different types of dementia could point to similar ways of treating them.

For Chris Henstridge at the University of Dundee, his interest in dementia began as purely academic – but that changed. 

‘I initially got involved in dementia research through my scientific fascination with the brain,’ he says. 

‘As I gained more knowledge on the healthy workings of the brain, I became intrigued by the processes that go wrong in conditions such as Alzheimer’s.

However, as my research developed, several of my family members were diagnosed with different forms of dementia. 

‘This cemented my drive to understand the underlying brain changes that were causing their struggles. 

‘Support from Alzheimer’s Society has enabled a gear change in my research.

‘By awarding five years of funding, I can now implement more ambitious research plans and, importantly, hire new young researchers to help direct it.’

Chris Henstridge

Treating all types of dementia

Ultimately, Chris and his team hope to discover a way to treat all types of dementia. 

We are looking at common features across dementias to see if there are opportunities to slow or stop their progression. 

We know that, in virtually every form of dementia, the connection points between brain cells (synapses) become damaged and this results in the loss of brain cells.

‘However synapses can be repaired, so if we can find ways to do this in dementia, we may be able to stop the condition before it progresses to irreversible brain cell loss.’

Donated brain tissue 

Chriss research relies on the brain tissue that people agree to donate to brain banks after their death, like those donated to the UK Brain Banks Network.

We are currently performing detailed analysis of donated human brains to reveal how the synapses have changed,' he says. 

We are then going to use several different model systems to understand why the synapses change and to uncover ways we might be able to prevent those changes.

Everything we do in the model systems is supported by the human brain work. This ensures we are focused on experiments that are directly relevant to the human condition.’ 

Similar changes 

Chris’s team has already made important discoveries in Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia and motor neurone disease. 

‘Whilst these three conditions may at first glance seem very different, they share some common symptoms related to problems with movement and thinking skills. They also show some similar changes in the brain, including loss of synapses. 

We are currently investigating if those synapse changes are the same or different in each condition, in the hope we can find ways to treat all of them.

Chris also hopes to identify changes in the blood that could lead to a quick and simple test, for faster and more accurate diagnosis of dementia. 

Huge impact

Chris’s message for Alzheimer’s Society’s supporters is clear. 

‘Research is our route to treatment, however funding for dementia research is not where it needs to be. 

‘Your donations have, and will continue to have, a huge impact on what we do and for that we, the researchers, are very grateful.’

Your donation funds research

Your donation helps us to fund research into all forms of dementia, from prevention to breakthrough drug treatments.


Dementia together magazine

Dementia together magazine is for all Alzheimer’s Society supporters and anyone affected by the condition.
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Dementia together magazine is for all Alzheimer’s Society supporters and anyone affected by the condition.
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