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Professor Julie Williams and colleagues at Cardiff University have discovered 40 risk genes for dementia which implicate the innate immune response in determining a person’s susceptibility to developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Building on their world-class expertise in genetics and immunology, the UK Dementia Research Institute at Cardiff University will use these discoveries as the starting point for understanding disease mechanisms and producing new therapies.

The team will use cellular and animal models to understand the function of risk genes implicated in two major areas of immunity, microglia cells and the complement system. They will study the involvement of complement proteins in the loss of synapses and cell death in Alzheimer’s disease and describe how Alzheimer’s risk genes affect the production and activation of microglia in the brain.

An additional programme of work will develop novel mathematical approaches to the study of dementia that will be shared with by all members of the UK DRI. This work will develop models for stratifying dementia risk and statistical tools for identifying patterns in large biological ‘omics’ data sets.

UK DRI at Cardiff University will be located in the Hadyn Ellis building on the Innovation campus, with access to state of the art facilities within the Cardiff University Dementia Research Network.

The UK DRI at Cardiff University will run three programmes of research:

The Microglia and Macrophages Programme

This programme will work towards an in vivo functional dissection of the role of microglia and macrophages in Alzheimer’s disease aetiology.

The Complement Programme

Looking at complement in Alzheimer’s disease, from gene discovery to mechanisms and better drugs.

The Bioinformatics Programme

Genomic studies of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) have identified high confidence risk loci that serve as a platform for biological investigation leading to novel therapies.