Researcher wins global professorship

A Cardiff University scientist has become the first in Wales to be awarded a prestigious Academy of Medical Science professorship.

Professor Vincent Dion, from the UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI), is trying to find ways of correcting the genetic mutation that causes Huntington’s Disease.

Huntington’s is an inherited disorder that damages nerve cells in the brain.

It is a degenerative condition and can affect movement, memory and behaviour.

“We’re using a gene editing approach to physically correct a mutation or to prevent it from being expressed in the first place,” said Prof Dion.

“The goal - if it works - is to move towards the clinic, carefully.”

The professorship was launched this year to offer support to medical researchers who have moved to the UK.

Professor Dion, who is originally from Canada, will receive research funding of 500,000 over three years, along with support and networking opportunities.

He had been working at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland but is now continuing his work at the UK DRI.

The research could, if successful, be applied to 12 other neurological disorders, including myotonic dystrophy, a genetic disorder that affects both brain and muscle function.

Although Professor Dion’s research is at the pre-clinical stage - working on cells in the lab - the long-term goal is to eradicate the disease entirely by removing the root cause.

Professor Julie Williams, director of the UK DRI, said: “I’m absolutely delighted that Vincent has joined the UK Dementia Research Institute and I think his research has the potential to change lives in the future.”

The Cardiff research centre is one of six that together make up the UK DRI, a joint 290m investment from the Medical Research Council, Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK.

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