What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive degenerative disorder of the brain resulting severe loss of memory (dementia). All of us experience memory lapses from time to time, but in Alzheimer’s disease this loss goes beyond forgetting where you left your car key.
Childhood memories, the faces of loved ones, and even basic bodily functions can be lost in the disease course. It mainly affects individuals over 65 years of age, with rare cases seen in younger individuals (early-onset Alzheimer’s).
The image shows an amyloid plaque (blue) surrounded by misshapen neurons (green) to the top right and bottom left, and a swollen axon to the bottom right.
Ongoing research in the Coleman Lab
Our lab works with models of Alzheimer’s disease to study what happens to the brain and nerves over the disease course. We particularly focus on axonal transport; the movement of vital cell components along neurons, as a potential issue in the disease. Axons show large swellings around plaques [brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/132/2/402.long] and there is disruption of microtubules “the railway tracks of nerves that allow transport to happen” at these points.
If, over time, transport became less and less effective, neurons could be starved of vital nutrients, leading the extensive loss of these cells in the disease. We are currently modelling disease progression by culturing brain slices in a dish, the aim here to determine whether changes in transport can be detected and if so, prevented. The slice model also allows us to test which compounds can alter disease progression and closely study changes on a cellular and molecular level.
Members of our group also coordinate the Alzheimer’s Research UK Cambridge Network which promotes interactions between local scientists working on dementia and organises public engagement activities.
For further information on Alzheimer’s disease research see: