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MRC Centre for Neurodegeneration Research

MRC News
This month's update of the MRC's activities includes the following items:
  • Gambian unit wins grant
  • Information about the recent Open Council meeting in Wales
  • New research board chairs appointed
  • Forthcoming training courses
CNR Newsletter


This newsletter replaces the Alzheimer's Disease Newsletter that was formerly produced by the Section of Old Age Psychiatry, Department of Psychological Medicine. 

CNR Poster day - 21st October


The following posters will be presented by local members of the CNR in Seminar rooms 1 & 2 at the allotted times


    12:30 - 13.00
  1. Neuroprotective actions of a novel-2-amido-3-hydroxypyridin-4(1h)-one iron chelator against Alzheimer’s disease-relevant insults. Presented by Francisco Molina-Holgado
  2. NMDA receptor activation stimulates a secretase amyloid precursor protein processing and inhibits amyloid β production in cultured cortical neurones. Presented by Sarah Hoey
  3. Oxidative load regulates amyloid burden in an APP x PS1 transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. Presented by Fahd Choudhry
  4. Tau phosphorylation status and agitation and aggression in Alzheimer’s Disease. Presented by Simone Guadagna
  5. Different effects on glutamate transporter expression and activity in striatal astrocytes by dexamethasone, riluzole, citicoline, ceftriaxone and zonisamide. Presented by Marica Carbone
  6. The group III mGlu receptor agonist L-AP4 affords both neurochemical and functional neuroprotection against a 6-hydroxydopamine lesion of the substantia nigra in rats? Presented by Matt Betts


    13:00 - 13.30
  7. Neural stem cells and astrocytes: potential versus phenotype. Presented by Angela Bithell & Manuela Volta
  8. Do neural stem cell lines retain positional specification and competence? Presented by Sophie Finch
  9. Are microglia dysfunctional in Batten disease? Presented by Sybille Dihanich
  10. Early reactive changes and progressive neurodegeneration in the nclf mouse model of vLINCL. Presented by Andrew Wong
  11. Clc-7 deficiency: a novel form of Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis? Presented by Sarah Pressey
  12. The effect of formalin fixation times on DNA preservation and immuno-reactivity in post-mortem brain tissue. Presented by Claire Troakes
  13. Latent cluster analysis of ALS phenotypes identifies prognostically differing groups. Presented by Jeban Ganesalingam


    13:30 - 14.00
  14. Correlation of plasma biomarkers with clinical measures of Alzheimer's disease. Presented by Anna Kinsey
  15. p53 family members induce the phosphorylation of human tau in cultured mammalian cells. Claudie Hooper
  16. Expression of tau and GSK-3 isoforms in different regions of the human brain. Presented by Mirsada Causevic & Richard Killick
  17. The Drosophila dopaminergic system: Characterisation and application as a model for Parkinson's Disease. Presented by Katie White
  18. Developmental origin of a motor control centre in Drosophila. Presented by Zoe Ludlow
  19. Mood in Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and other disorders. Presented by Lorna Taylor
  20. Tau phosphorylation in a cell cycle-related mechanism of neurodegeneration. Presented by Antonio Currais


    14:00 - 14.30
  21. Tau cleavage in the 4R tauopathies. Presented by Selina Wray
  22. Neuroprotective properties of minocycline in models of Alzheimer's disease: involvement of caspase-3 and glia. Presented by Claire Garwood
  23. The role of protein DYRK1a in the generation of tau phosphorylation state relevant to Down’s Syndrome. Presented by Anjan Seereeram
  24. GSK-3 regulates tau axonal transport by controlling its binding to kinesin. Presented by Anjan Seereeram
  25. Role of fyn and tau interactions in Alzheimer's disease development. Presented by Alessia Usardi
  26. Tandem mass tags and MRM mass spectrometry for the evaluation of biomarkers implicated in Alzheimer's disease. Presented by Darragh O'Brien
  27. Lemur tyrosine kinase 2 regulates phosphorylation of KLC2 and its binding of cargo. Presented by Florence Guillot
  28. The neuronal X11a adaptor protein improves cognitive function of Tg2576 (APPswe) mice in the Morris water maze. Presented by Jackie Mitchell
  29. An ALS-associated mutation in VAPB (P56S) impairs axonal transport of mitochondria. Presented by Kurt De Vos
  30. A facile new protocol for multiplexed quantitation of membrane proteomes. Presented by Andy Thompson
  31. Characterisation of the glycosylated forms of matrix metalloproteinase-18 in Xenopus laevis. Presented by Steve Lynham
  32. Alterations in numbers of circulating immune cells in Alzheimer's disease. Presented by Katie Lunnon
CNR/ART Open Day - 26th April

The first joint Open day between the Alzheimer's Research Trust (ART) and the Centre for Neurodegeneration Research was held on Saturday, the 26th April 2008. About 160 people attended and the day followed a similar format to those held in previous years.

The 2008 Open Day was enabled by the King’s College London Annual Fund.
We would also like to acknowledge the following organisations and companies for their generous support:

  • Medical Research Council
  • Eisai Limited
  • Lundbeck Limited
  • Office Depot, UK Limited


09.15-10.25 Registration and welcome
The day began with registration and coffee, after which Professor Simon Lovestone, Professor of Old Age Psychiatry, briefly welcomed the audience to the Institute and introduced the day's programme (listen and watch). Professor Lovestone then gave a talk on Alzheimer's disease and motor neurone disease (listen and watch).


Professor Simon Lovestone addressing the audience in the Wolfson Lecture Theatre


10.30-11.00 Coffee break


11.00-15.00 Tour of workstations (incl. lunch)
The attendees were assigned to one of two circuits each consisting of 8 workstations and they were further divided into groups of about 12. Each group then visited all the work stations in their circuit spending approximately 15-20 min at each one. Click here to see photos taken during the visits.
There was a break for lunch half way through the tours.


Circuit 1
Circuit 2
Gene-hunting in familial MND
Caroline Vance
Gene-hunting in familial MND
Jemeen Sreedharan
Using a case register to facilitate dementia research
Megan Pritchard
Imaging: The effects of anti-dementia drugs on brain dopamine function in people with AD
Suzanne Reeves
Mice and memory – identifying potential new treatments for AD
Darran Yates
Brain changes in AD
Andy Simmons and Rysia Burmicz
Imaging: Tracking disease progression in AD
Lia Ali
Brain tissue donation for research into neurodegenerative diseases
Claire Troakes and Richard Hudspith
photos of lunch in the café diner
Unlocking the secrets of the brain – what information can we extract from the post-mortem human brain tissue
Selina Wray
Mouse tests of cognition
John Stephenson
Using the fruitfly; Drosophila; to study human neurodegenerative diseases
Frank Hirth, Danny Mackay, Paul Hopkins, Katie White, Zoe Ludlow, Dani Diaper, Dongwook Kim and 6th form students
Live microscopy: A tool for research into neurodegeneration
Teresa Rodriguez
Searching for the key to diagnosis
Jeban Ganesalingam
Notch and memory
Richard Killick and Alvina To
The chick embryo as a screen for genes and therapies in MND
Vineeta Tripathi
Using neural stem cells to investigate brain development and disease
Angela Bithell and Matthew Burney


15.00-15.25 Tea break


15.25-16.15 Q & A Panel session chaired by Professor Simon Lovestone

The panel members, from left to right, were:

Professor Sube Banerjee, Old Age Psychiatrist
Professor Robert Howard, Old Age Psychiatrist
Mrs Heather Roberts, Alzheimer’s Society Ambassador
Professor Simon Lovestone, Chair
Mr Tony MacDonald, Deputy Director, Mental Health of Older Adults at SLaM
Professor Nigel Leigh, Consultant Neurologist


See photos taken during the session.



16.15-16.30 Results of the students' experiment to investigate Parkinsonian-like movement deficits in Drosophila
This experiment was carried out by 6th form students from 3 local schools:
  • Dunraven School – Sian Mitchell, Vinh Hoang, Tsun Wong, Alexander Baumont
  • St Martin in the Fields – Ugochi Nwohia, Jardian Junor, Rajmin Nahar
  • Charles Edward Brooke – Yeshak Dejene, Zuri Jarrett-Boswell, Naomi Quashie, Aderinola Kolawole, Maraki Geremew
The students and researchers outside the Institute at the start of their day

Background Parkinsonian-like symptoms are largely due to a loss of neurones that produce the neurotransmitter, dopamine. The two drugs used in this experiment, reserpine and L-Dopa, have opposite effects on brain dopamine. Reserpine blocks the storage of dopamine and therefore induces PD-like symptoms because the neurons no longer have any stored dopamine to release when needed. It is already known to cause movement deficits in flies. L-Dopa is an amino acid that enters the brain and is converted into dopamine. It is commonly used to alleviate some of the symptoms of PD in patients.

Method Adult female flies were given reserpine alone, or reserpine together with L-Dopa, in their food for 8 days; a control group were given no drug. Their climbing ability was measured by placing 15 flies from each of the 3 groups into vertical climbing columns. The columns were then tapped, to knock the flies to the bottoms of the tubes, and they were then allowed to climb for 45 seconds (the flies climb upwards to move towards light). A score indicating how well the flies can move is then calculated from the number of flies reaching the top of the column and the number of flies remaining at the bottom after 45 seconds.

Hypothesis That L-Dopa will alleviate the reserpine induced movement deficit in flies, causing flies treated with reserpine + L-Dopa to achieve higher scores on the climbing test than those treated with reserpine alone. If a drug that is used to treat symptoms in humans has the same effect in Drosophila, this reinforces the relevance of using the fly to model PD; as well as highlighting the potential for identifying new therapeutic compounds in the future.

Results Watch and listen to the students present their findings

Read Dani Diaper's report of the students experiment and see more photos. Dani is a current MSc Neuroscience student and former journalist


The day ended with Professor Simon Lovestone thanking the students for their excellent work and presentation and he gave each of them a signed copy of Terry Pratchett's book, The Science of Discworld. He also thanked the audience for attending the day.
MRC Network - Winter 2008 edition
This quarter’s edition looks at future plans for the NIMR and LMB.
Proteomics facility...five years on

On 29 November 2001 one of the most advanced proteomics facilities in the UK opened at the Institute of Psychiatry. Five years on, the laboratory is still at the forefront of cutting-edge biological research. The facility was established in partnership with Proteome Sciences plc and the assistance of a Joint Research Equipment Initiative award from HEFCE. A number of mass spectrometers including a Q-TOF and MALDI-TOF were commissioned. Since that time the facility has commissioned a new Q-TRAP mass spectrometer with funding from the Medical Research Council. This has increased the facility’s technological capabilities in discovering biomarkers which will help the diagnosis of disease and also be useful for monitoring the effects of drugs and new therapies presently in pre-clinical development. The partnership with Proteome Sciences plc has proved highly successful with several patents for biomarkers in Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s Disease, numerous peer-reviewed papers and many presentations and posters at high-profile international meetings. The journal Brain recently published work led by Professor Simon Lovestone at the Institute of Psychiatry, in which plasma based biomarkers for Alzheimer’s Disease were identified using the mass spectrometers available within the facility. ‘Biomarkers are a key area of research at the moment. You only have to look at the fields of oncology and cardiovascular medicine for example to see how important they are. In psychiatry we are only just beginning to discover biomarkers but it is at least possible that they will become as important to diagnosis and to monitoring treatments as they are in other branches of medicine. Proteomics is critical to biomarker discovery as proteins, like lipids and other metabolites, are state markers as opposed to genes which are trait markers.’ Professor Brian Anderton, Director of the MRC Centre for Neurodegenerative Research and founder of the facility, comments: ‘The state-of-the-art mass spectrometry and the expertise of our collaborators in Proteome Sciences has given us a lead in neurodegeneration research over many of our competitors. It also certainly was an important factor in our successful application to become an MRC Research Centre since it enabled us to demonstrate our ability to conduct translational research.’ The facility primarily provides mass spectrometry analysis and data processing to King’s researchers on a ‘fees for service’ basis. For more information contact Steve Lynham (ext 0248) or Malcolm Ward (ext 5112).

Visit by Hong Kong students

On the 27th May 2006, about 20 medical and biochemistry students from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), visited the Centre to learn about our research into neurodegeneration.  The students have published their own account of the visit.

A member of the Centre, Dr Kwok-Fai Lau, and an alumni of the Biochemistry Department at CUHK, welcomed the students before asking Professor Chris Miller to talk about the Centre and then about his own research.


Becky Gould
Imaging memory function in Alzheimer's disease

Graham Cocks
Biomarkers in Alzheimer's disease

Dr John Stephenson / Dr Jackie Mitchell
Mouse tests of cognition

Visit by Canadian students

We were visited on the afternoon of the 26th May 2006 by about 13 Biology Honours students from Memorial University, Newfoundland, who were  in the UK as part of a  a compressed course in Applied Biology which they were studying in their Harlow campus.  They came to the Centre to learn about  our research into neurodegenerative diseases. 
Professor Brian Anderton, the Centre Director,  welcomed the students to the Centre and, after a brief presentation on the structure of the Centre and its goals, he then described some of the mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative diseases, especially Alzheimer's disease.  The students then went round several workstations where individual Centre members described their research projects:

Professor Brian Anderton 
Understanding changes in the brain brings new drugs to treat Alzheimer's disease

Dr Ritchie Williamson
Neuronal cultures as a research tool

Dr John Stephenson / Dr Jackie Mitchell
Mouse tests of cognition

Selina Wray
The secrets of the brain - what information can we extract from post-mortem  human brain tissue

Alzheimer's disease research Open Day

The Open Day commenced with a Welcome  from Professor Simon Lovestone, Professor of Old Age Psychiatry.  He followed his welcome with a talk on the importance of fruit flies in his own research on Alzheimer's disease.

Then, after coffee, the  people attending the Open Day were divided into several groups and they visited several workstations that were manned by researchers working on different aspects of Alzheimer's disease.  Audio-visual recordings of some of their presentations can be watched and listened to here  (Selina Wray described her experience of running a workstation in the 1st edition of the CNR's newsletter). 

The Open Day finished with a Question and Answer session chaired by Dr Raj Persaud, during which the audience put their questions to Professor Brian Anderton, director of the Centre, Ms Tessa Gunning, an occupational therapist, and Professors Sube Bannerjee and Robert Howard, both old age psychiatists.

You can listen to and watch, or just listen to, Professor Lovestone's talks and to the Question and Answer session by using the following links.

Welcome Watch and listen   listen (mp3)
Fruit fly talk Watch and listen   listen (mp3)
Question and answer session   listen (mp3)

16th International ALS/MND symposium

This talk by Dr Paul Wicks is a summary of highlights from the most recent international symposium on ALS/MND, and features a summary of quackery, stem cells, and other advances in clinical research. The plenary lecture came from Dr Stephen Barratt, webmaster of Quackwatch, a network of sites devoted to defeating quackery and fradulent medical scams. Due to the vulnerability of patients with ALS/MND, many are drawn into these cons to take expensive and unnecessary treatments. The talk also contains a summary of the recent stem cell debacle in Korea, as well as a statement from the UK's own Professor Ian Wilmut about the importance of pushing human trials in patients suffering from terminal illnesses. Finally, there is a summary of the latest research looking at psychological (cognitive) change in ALS/MND.

Watch the presentation

Inaugural meeting

The inaugural meeting for members of the Centre was held on the 28th November 2005, shortly after the award had been announced.  The meeting consisted of presentations by the Director of the Centre, Professor Brian Anderton, and by the two Vice-Directors, Professor Simon Lovestone and Professor Nigel Leigh.  Their presentations described the research and training background to the successful application to the MRC and the research questions and training needs that the Centre will seek to address.

Watch and listen (Flash required).

Brian Anderton, Director of the Centre and Professor of Neuroscience
What we know and what we don’t understand about Alzheimer’s disease

Simon Lovestone, Vice Director of the Centre and Professor of Old Age Psychiatry
Tests for Alzheimer’s disease

Nigel Leigh, Vice Director of the Centre and Professor of Clinical Neurology.
Translational neuroscience