A cell culture model to find drugs that may be useful to treat dementia.

Award Number
Status / Stage
1 March 2017 -
1 August 2017
Duration (calculated)
00 years 05 months
Wellcome Trust
Funding Amount
Contracted Centre
University College London
Principal Investigator
Prof Paul Whiting
PI Contact
WHO Catergories
Development of novel therapies
Disease Type
Dementia (Unspecified)

CPEC Review Info
Reference ID301
ResearcherReside Team


Award Number206598/Z/17/Z
Status / StageCompleted
Start Date20170301
End Date20170801
Duration (calculated) 00 years 05 months
Contracted CentreUniversity College London
Funding Amount£7,000.00


I am an undergraduate Neuroscience Msci student studying at the University of Bristol. I am undergoing an industrial trainee year, with Alzheimer’s Research UK University College London drug discovery institute (AR-UK UCL DDI), as part of my course. The AR-UK UCL DDI is a newly established unit in UCL, with core funding from Alzheimer’s Research UK. Its goal is to discover new approaches and therapies for dementia, a core symptom of a number of important diseases (“neurodegenerative diseases” of the brain such as Alzheimer’s disease). With the increasing aging population these neurodegenerative diseases are becoming a huge individual, societal and economic problem. The AR-UK UCL DDI currently has 12 scientists and will increase to about 24, and is equipped to enable the scientific experiments and studies to be performed.My industrial trainee year with the AR-UK UCL DDI will allow me to experience neuroscience in the research setting with an opportunity to use techniques commonly used in the field. The placement will provide a very practical learning in a professional environment, challenging me both personally and academically. It will also expose me to the process of working towards developing new therapies. I will be able to develop my interpersonal skills alongside vital experience working in lab with experienced colleagues. I will take the confidence and skills built during the placement into my final year and in my future studies and career as I hope to do a PhD after my undergraduate course.Project details: Neurons are key cells of the brain. Synapses are the key points that neurons communicate to each other, and are thought to be the basis of learning and memory. In neurodegeneration the neurons and the synapses decrease in number and ability to function, leading to progressive memory loss, dementia and eventually, death. Therefore ways of protecting the neurons and synapses, and maintaining their function, could be useful therapeutic approaches. The project will involve growing neurons in a cell culture dish; it is possible to do this by obtaining the neurons from mouse brains. The neurons are able to form synapses in the culture dish, which mimic the synapses that would be naturally formed in the mouse brain. I will use these cultured neurons to develop ways of measuring the number of synapses. It will be possible to measure the number of synapses by using fluorescently tagged antibodies that bind specifically to neuronal proteins that localise to synapses, and then use microscopy to count the number of those synapses. Once I have set up this system, I will be able to add various small molecules (compounds) and drugs and identify any that are able to increase the number of the synapses. Such small molecules or drugs could be the starting point for developing new therapies for dementia.