Manchester dementia scientist shares latest findings at top research conference

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18 Mar 2014

A Manchester scientist will present his latest research on the genetics of frontotemporal dementia at a major dementia research conference next week.

Professor Stuart Pickering-Brown, a world expert in the disease from the University of Manchester, will shed new light on a gene that causes the disease on Tuesday (25 March) at Alzheimer’s Research UK Conference 2014 in Oxford. The study has revealed new information about some of the features of the disease.
Alzheimer’s Research UK is the UK’s leading dementia research charity, funding more than £20m of pioneering research into the condition across the UK. The charity’s annual conference, which takes place on 25 and 26 March, is the largest of its kind in the UK and will see leading scientists share their progress in the drive to defeat dementia.
Prof Pickering-Brown and his team are investigating a gene called C9orf72, which has been implicated in the development of frontotemporal dementia (FTD). This relatively rare form of dementia, which usually affects people under 65, causes distressing symptoms including personality and behavioural changes, loss of ability to reason, and problems with language.
Up to 40% of people with FTD have an inherited form of the disease, and it’s thought around 9% of cases in the UK are caused by a faulty version of the C9orf72 gene. Earlier research has shown that this gene produces repeated protein fragments called ‘dipeptides’, and the team in Manchester is investigating whether these are involved in causing the disease. Using state-of-the-art techniques, the researchers have been able to reproduce these protein fragments in cells in order to study them in the lab. Their research has shown that the fragments accumulate inside cells, and the team is now working to understand whether they are harmful to cells.
Professor Pickering-Brown said: “To be able to develop new treatments for people with FTD, it’s important to understand the biological mechanisms involved in the disease. The faulty gene we are studying has a number of different biological effects, and we want to understand which of these play a role in the disease, and how. By recreating some of the effects we see in the brain, our team has been able to produce a valuable tool to help us solve this difficult puzzle. Importantly, our research could also enable us to test the effects of potential new treatments for the disease in the future.”
Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “When this faulty gene was revealed as one cause of FTD, the discovery raised a number of important questions about how the gene causes damage, and how this damage could be stopped. This useful study has begun to answer some of those questions and opened new avenues for research. It will now be essential to follow up this research to understand how these protein fragments may be involved in FTD, and whether treatments designed to target them could have a beneficial effect. For results like these to be translated into benefits for people, it’s crucial that we continue investing in research.”

Notes for editors

For further information, or to speak with Prof Stuart Pickering-Brown or Dr Simon Ridley, please contact Kirsty Marais, Media and Communications Officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK on 0300 111 5 666, mobile 07826 559233 or email or Alison Barbuti Media Relations Officer Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences The University of Manchester Manchester Academic Health Science Centre (MAHSC) Tel: +44(0)161 275 8383 Email: 

• ‘C9orf72 and frontotemporal dementia’ by S Pickering-Brown is due to be presented at Alzheimer’s Research UK Conference 2014 on Tuesday 25 March.
• The Alzheimer’s Research UK Conference 2014 will take place on 25/26 March at the Saїd Business School in Oxford. There will be a public open day on dementia on 22 March in Oxford.
• Alzheimer’s Research UK is the UK’s leading charity specialising in finding preventions, treatments and a cure for dementia. 
• To help us defeat dementia, donate today by visiting or calling 0300 111 5555.
• We are currently supporting dementia research projects worth over £20 million in leading Universities across the UK.
• The University of Manchester, a member of the Russell Group, is one of the largest and most popular universities in the UK. It has 20 academic schools and hundreds of specialist research groups undertaking pioneering multi-disciplinary teaching and research of worldwide significance. According to the results of the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, The University of Manchester is one of the country’s major research institutions, rated third in the UK in terms of ‘research power’. The University has an annual income of £807 million and is ranked 40th in the world and fifth in the UK for the quality of its teaching and impact of its research.

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