Brain scans to spot signs of Alzheimer’s disease in the choroid plexus

Research project: Developing Novel Early Biomarker of Alzheimer's Disease: Functional Imaging of the Choroid Plexus

Lead Investigator: Dr Jack Wells

  • Institution: University College London
  • Grant type: PhD Studentship
  • Duration: 36 months
  • Amount: £90,651

Why did we fund this research? 

Comments from our Research Network volunteers:

‘The opportunity to utilise a non-invasive method is very promising. I feel that this study could potentially move the field forward.'

Project summary

Current research suggests that spotting the early changes to the brain in Alzheimer’s disease is vital to developing new treatments. 

This project aims to develop a non-invasive brain scanning technique that will allow doctors to detect early changes to an area of the brain known as the choroid plexus. These changes are associated with a build-up of the build-up of toxic proteins that can lead to Alzheimer's disease. This study could lead to new approaches to diagnose and treat Alzheimer's disease. 

The background

In Alzheimer's disease, toxic forms of the proteins, amyloid and tau build up in the brain. Research has shown that these proteins build up as the cells in the brain can no longer clear them away. 

An area of the brain known as the choroid plexus produces around 400ml of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) - a clear liquid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord – each day. Researchers believe CSF is involved in the brain’s waste removal system. This system doesn’t work as well in older people, and Dr Wells and his team think the build-up of toxic proteins in the brain may be caused as the choroid plexus isn’t functioning properly. 

This research team has developed a technique which uses MRI scanning to study the function of the choroid plexus in mice. They hope to use this technique to spot early changes that might show the waste removal system isn’t working properly. 

What does this project involve? 

The research team will continue developing this valuable scanning technique so it can be used in people. First, the team will optimise the technique so that it generates the most accurate images possible in the least possible time and test it to ensure that they can see changes to the choroid plexus.

It will then be used to study ageing mice and mice genetically engineered to mimic people with Alzheimer's disease. The ultimate aim of this project is to develop a validated scanning technique to identify changes to the choroid plexus that is ready to be tested in people.  

How will this project help people affected by dementia? 

By the time symptoms of dementia such as memory loss are identified, around 60% of nerve cells in vital regions of the brain have already been lost. Doctors need tests that are safe and easy to use at the very early stages of the condition.

This new approach is a non-invasive way to spot changes to the brain’s waste-removal system.  It could help to identify people at the very earliest stages of the condition when treatment may be more effective. 

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