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Dr Mohsen Seifi, left, and Dr Jerome Swinny
Dr Mohsen Seifi, left, and Dr Jerome Swinny
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A TEAM of dementia researchers in Portsmouth has been given a £50,000 funding boost to study how Alzheimer’s disease affects the gut.

The funding, which has been given by charity the Alzheimer’s Research UK, will see Dr Mohsen Seifi and Dr Jerome Swinny, from the University of Portsmouth, embark on a 21-month project.

Dr Swinny, senior lecturer at the school of pharmacy and biomedical sciences and the principal investigator on the award, said: ‘Alzheimer’s affects people in many different ways and everyone’s experience of the disease is different.

‘Many people associate memory loss with Alzheimer’s, but some of the often-overlooked physical symptoms of the disease such as incontinence and constipation can also take a huge toll on someone’s quality of life.

‘Intestinal problems can limit how comfortable people feel leaving the house, restricting the social opportunities available to those with dementia and their carers.’

The team will study the process using mice bred to show hallmark changes associated with Alzheimer’s – comparing the activity of their gut to healthy mice to understand what changes happen in the intestine in the disease.

They will study how well the gut is working, as well as investigating some of the molecular changes in cells in the intestine in the mice with features of Alzheimer’s.

Dr Seifi’s discoveries as a PhD student in Dr Swinny’s lab paved the way for this project.

He said: ‘The same kinds of cells that send signals across the brain to control how we think, feel and behave also control the physical activity of the gut. This activity helps to breakdown and digest food, as well as control when we go to the toilet.

‘We believe that some of the same damaging changes that happen to nerve cells in the brain in Alzheimer’s disease may also happen in nerve cells in the gut, including the build-up of two hallmark proteins called amyloid and tau.

‘This funding boost will allow us to delve deeper into the biology of these symptoms and why they occur.

‘We’re really grateful to Alzheimer’s Research UK and their supporters for making this research possible.’