Using animals in research

Dementia and multiple sclerosis

The research conducted by Professor Arthur Butt, Professor of Cellular Neurophysiology, and his colleagues is focused on the ageing brain and diseases such as dementia and multiple sclerosis.

The team use mice to study mechanisms in the brain that may cause degenerative conditions.

They have found a protein that is a key element in controlling special cells in the brain and spinal cord that form myelin, a substance which insulates the brain’s wiring.  They discovered that the protein is critical to ensuring that these cells, known as oligodendrocytes, function well. 

Dr Sassan Hafizi, fellow member of the cellular neurophysiology group, is using the same type of methodology to investigate multiple sclerosis (MS).  Symptoms of the disease, which include memory and emotional problems as well as effects on the body, are the result of lesions on the brain’s white matter caused by damage to myelin and to oligodendrocytes. 

The discovery of the protein could lead to better treatments for MS and dementia. There is also the potential in the future for a diagnostic tool for clinicians to use to predict Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Professor Butt says: “Through investigating the signals used by the brain to control these functions we hope to gain further insight into the ageing brain and better understand diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.”