Sheffield researchers unravel causes of Alzheimer´s

Researchers at the University of Sheffield, funded by the UK´s leading dementia research charity, the Alzheimer´s Research Trust, have uncovered how a type of brain cell is affected in Alzheimer´s. The team´s exciting findings are to be published later this month (May 2009)in two journals.

This new work shows that astrocytes, star-shaped brain cells that provide nutrients to nerve cells and help control blood flow, are increasingly injured as Alzheimer´s progresses.

Dr Stephen Wharton, from the University´s School of Medicine, who led the team said: "Recent findings show that astrocytes are vital in maintaining the connection between other brain cells, so damage to them might contribute to the thinking problems experienced by people with Alzheimer´s."

He continued: "Our research helps us to understand what is happening in the brain as we age, and how that process goes wrong in diseases like Alzheimer´s."

Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of the Alzheimer´s Research Trust, said: "The researchers in Sheffield are making fantastic progress. By understanding what is happening in the brain during Alzheimer´s, we can arm ourselves with the tools to develop new treatments. The brain is hugely complex, but this new research shows how Alzheimer´s can affect specific types of brain cells.

"We desperately need to support research that can move us towards new treatments. The population living with dementia forecast to double within a generation, we are in a race against time."