Alzheimer's disease

Elderly man resting with his hand on his chin

We are working to search for environmental, biological and genetic factors that influence the progression of dementia.

What is Alzheimer's disease?

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia and affects over 500,000 people in the UK. It is a progressive disease that damages nerve cells in the brain leading to increasingly severe symptoms over time.

The condition mainly develops in old age, but around 4% of people with Alzheimer's disease are under 65.

Our research

Our research team is led by Professor Julie Williams and our expertise encompasses field work, laboratory genetics and functional work, as well as bioinformatics and biostatistics.

A photograph of the Alzheimer's disease research team
The Alzheimer's disease research team.

Since 2004, we have worked collaboratively to understand more about how certain genes affect the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease. So far over 3,000 people have helped us with our research and as a result we have directed the discovery of 27 genes that contribute to the risk of developing late onset Alzheimer's disease.

It is likely that there are more genes to find and so the next step of our research will focus on understanding more about how genes cause and affect young onset Alzheimer's disease. At present, very little is known about why some people develop the disease at such an early age. To improve our understanding of this we are now conducting the first large-scale study of young onset Alzheimer's disease.

Understanding more about the causes of Alzheimer's disease will help us to develop diagnosis, improve care, and advance treatment of patients. With your help this research has the potential to help people in the future.

GERAD exome chip study

Our latest research study investigates genetic variation in Alzheimer’s disease.

The GERAD EC study uses samples collected from over 100,000 research participants from across the world. It is a major collaboration with several international partners and funding bodies (docx).

This study has allowed us to examine small changes in DNA by using an exome chip design  and advanced in-depth statistical analysis to spot previously undetected differences in the DNA of people with Alzheimer’s disease and people without.

A fuller understanding of these differences could be the key to learning why some people develop the illness while others do not.

The results of this study will be published later in 2016.

Help us

We are always looking for people to help with our research.

Currently, we need volunteers with young onset Alzheimer's disease (sometimes referred to as early onset). This is defined as those who began to experience their first symptoms of Alzheimer's disease before the age of 65. Even if you are over 65 now you are still able to help if you first had symptoms before age 65.

If you choose to take part, one or two members of our research team will visit you at your home at a convenient time for you. The research visit will involve:

  • An informal interview with you which will include a memory test
  • An informal interview with a relative or friend of your choice
  • Donation of a blood sample

We would also like to contact you in the future about follow up visits or other research projects. Participation in this project is entirely voluntary. All information will be treated as strictly confidential and you are free to withdraw from the research at any stage.

For more information, or to participate, please contact Nicola Denning on +44 (0)29 2068 8042 or e-mail