Student shares international stage with latest findings in dementia research

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A former Aylesbury High School student shared her latest findings in dementia research with international scientists at a major conference.

Jessica Duncombe, now at the University of Edinburgh, took to the stage in Manchester on Tuesday, March 8, to share her results with a room of more than 480 scientists at the Alzheimer’s Research UK annual conference, the biggest gathering of dementia researchers in the country.

Jessica’s PhD work, funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK, focuses on how changes in blood vessels in the brain can contribute to Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia – the two leading causes of dementia in the UK.

Her findings in mice revealed that the vital process of blood flow meeting the demands of nerve cells in the brain can go awry as we grow older and could explain why some people develop memory and thinking difficulties in later life.

Jessica, who works with Professor Karen Horsburgh at the university’s Centre for Neuroregeneration said: “The blood vessels that serve the brain could wrap around the world four times, and while they are the focus of research into vascular dementia, their contribution to diseases like Alzheimer’s is often overlooked. I was honoured to be discussing my work at the Alzheimer’s Research UK Conference and to share the stage with world-leading researchers.

“I hope my findings will prompt discussion and encourage more researchers to consider the links between blood flow and nerve cell health. Now that I understand more about the mechanisms that tie blood flow to nerve cell activity, I want to test experimental drugs that could help improve this process and see whether this has any impact on memory and thinking skills.”

Dr Emma O’Brien, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “The Alzheimer’s Research UK Conference is a highlight of the dementia research calendar – an opportunity for researchers to hear the latest developments in the field and forge collaborations that are so essential for tackling this huge medical challenge.

“Alzheimer’s Research UK is currently funding £33 million of pioneering dementia research across the UK, but with research into the condition still underfunded, we must all act to change the lives of those affected. We are committed to not only funding the best ideas, but investing in people. By training up the next generation of researchers, like Jessica, we will boost the numbers of scientists tackling the condition and improve the lives of people with dementia.”