An Insight into Defying Dementia at Lancaster

A man looks into a microscope while a researcher explains what he can see

The Defying Dementia team recently hosted informative talks and lab tours on campus. The event provided a unique opportunity to gain insights into vitally important research and witness first-hand the innovation happening within the laboratories.

Chaired by Dr Ed Parkin, the talks were delivered by Dr Neil Dawson, Dr Andrew Fielding and PhD researchers Amelia Bryers and Alice Wood. They delved into some of the focus areas of their research, emphasising its potential impact on being able to slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s through drug development. Our colleagues from the Law School and Lancaster University, Dr Kathryn Sabam and Sadie Whittam, also joined proceedings to discuss possible ways in which they might offer those with dementia and their carers legal help on their journey.

Following the presentations, we embarked on an informative tour of the labs, where the researchers generously shared their knowledge and gave everyone a fascinating insight into their research. Here are some of the key takeaways from our visit to the laboratories:

1. Could neurexin be a potential therapeutic target for Alzheimer’s disease – research by Amelia Bryers, third year PhD student.

Amelia’s research focuses on whether neurexin proteins are protective against Alzheimer’s disease. Research has shown that a decrease in neurexin on the surface of nerve cells results in a loss of communication between them in the brain. The team is looking at ways to restore neurexin levels to help combat nerve communication in Alzheimer's disease. One of the aims of Amelia’s research is to look at the fragments that are produced when neurexin proteins are cut from nerve cell surfaces and to develop drugs to inhibit this release.

2. Developing a cell model of Alzheimer’s disease for the study of protective proteins – research by Alice Wood, second year PhD student.

Amyloid beta plaques and tau tangles are sticky clumps of proteins in the brain that are toxic to nerve cells. One of the aims of Alice’s research is to create an artificial cell system in which we can turn on and off the generation of plaques and tangles simply by adding a chemical to the cells. Alice’s research also focuses on protective proteins, and the role that they play in defending the brain against the harmful effects of Alzheimer’s disease. Using her Alzheimer's disease cell model Alice also hopes to be able to turn on and off levels of these protective proteins to study how they might combat the toxic effects of plaques and tangles.

3. Exploring the Microscopic World.

One of the highlights of the tour of the labs was the chance to peer into the microscopic realm, where researchers meticulously study compounds that hold the potential to unlock new avenues in dementia treatment. The sight of these tiny structures under the microscope was a vivid reminder of the intricate nature of the human brain and the complexities researchers navigate in the pursuit of drug development.

4. Experiments in Action.

The labs were busy with activity, with experiments in full swing. We observed our researchers actively engaged in a variety of experiments aimed at understanding the mechanisms behind dementia and ways that this research can contribute to slowing down its progression. The energy and focus in the labs underscored the urgency and importance of the work being undertaken.

5. Witnessing Research and Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Motion.

Being present in the labs allowed us to see research in motion, and what was incredibly impressive was the collaborative spirit and interdisciplinary approach among our researchers, which not only fosters creativity but can accelerate the pace of discovery. It was clear that each researcher was driven by a genuine desire to make meaningful contributions to their respective fields, and the shared goal of improving the lives of those living with dementia.

The tour not only provided insights into ongoing research, but it also offered a glimpse into the future of dementia treatment. The potential impact of their work extends beyond the laboratory, offering hope to those affected by dementia and their families.

A huge thank you to our Defying Dementia team for sharing the impact of your donations and how it brings us closer to finding a cure for dementia. The team plan to host another talk and tour in the new year. If you are interested in attending, please email

Follow the link below to find out more about Defying Dementia and how you can continue to be involved:

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