University of Dundee University of Dundee
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28 June 2011

Dundee dementia researchers to study body's natural defences in new project

Dundee scientists are investigating whether the body's antioxidant systems can be harnessed to help fight Alzheimerís disease, thanks to a £30,000 grant from Alzheimerís Research UK, the UKís leading dementia research charity.

The team, led by Dr John Sharkey at the University of Dundee, want to know how to fight cell damage caused by free radicals. They hope to harness the bodyís natural antioxidant defence mechanisms to halt the progression of Alzheimerís, using drugs designed to kick-start these mechanisms.

One drug is based on a chemical called sulforaphane, which is found in vegetables such as broccoli and rocket. It is currently in clinical trials as an anti-cancer agent, but if the work in Dundee produces positive results, itís hoped the research could eventually lead to clinical trials for Alzheimer's - the most common cause of dementia.

Dr Sharkey said: 'There is some evidence to suggest that stimulating the bodyís natural antioxidant defence system could help fight other brain diseases such as Parkinsonís and stroke. We now hope to show that boosting this system may help stop or slow Alzheimerís disease.

'We are very grateful to Alzheimerís Research UK for this funding, which will allow us to take the first steps in testing this theory. Research is the only answer to dementia, and we hope our work will open up new areas of research that could prove key to defeating Alzheimerís disease.'

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimerís Research UK, said: 'We are delighted to be funding this innovative project, which we hope could open the door to new avenues for research.

'Dementia already affects 820,000 people in the UK and nearly 1,500 people in Dundee alone, and with a rapidly ageing population, those numbers are increasing. If we are to find a treatment that is so desperately needed, itís vital that we invest in pilot projects such as this one, giving scientists the chance to test new ideas.'

For further information, or to speak with Dr John Sharkey or Dr Simon Ridley, please contact Kirsty Marais, Media Officer at Alzheimer's Research UK on 01223 843304, 07826 559233 or email

Notes to editors:

  • Alzheimerís Research UK is the UKís leading charity specialising in finding preventions, treatments and a cure for dementia.
  • To help us defeat dementia, donate today by visiting or calling 01223 843899.
  • We are currently supporting dementia research projects worth £17 million in leading Universities across the UK.

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