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Race Against Dementia Fellow’s pioneering dementia research project races ahead

RACE AGAINST DEMENTIA

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Sir Jackie Stewart OBE

Race Against Dementia Fellow, Dr Claire Durrant, has officially opened her laboratory at the University of Edinburgh, following a £1million donation from the James Dyson Foundation. Claire has devised an innovative process to recover and investigate samples of surplus human brain tissue following neurosurgery operations.

Claire transfers the samples to her state-of-the-art laboratory where, with a dedicated team, she applies toxic proteins to better understand how Alzheimer’s disease impacts the brain. Claire is compelled to tackle her research in novel ways – drawing on the expertise of Dyson and Formula 1 through her Race Against Dementia Fellowship.

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“It is a wonderful collaboration between scientists and engineers”

Sir Jackie said: “I am so delighted that Race Against Dementia has been able to join forces with the James Dyson Foundation to accelerate this vital research. Not only has James Dyson given Claire very generous financial support but he has also encouraged Dyson engineers to assist her by applying Dyson in-house equipment and expertise to her research. It is a wonderful collaboration between scientists and engineers, which reflects a true F1 problem solving mindset – and will, I hope, produce great results.”

Claire was one of the first Race Against Dementia Fellows, commencing her research in 2019. As well as developing a high-tech laboratory to execute her research, Claire spends time at the Dyson headquarters in Malmesbury, Wiltshire. Dyson engineers help analyse her brain samples on an atomic or molecular level, applying in-house equipment and expertise usually targeted at battery research.

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“Dyson engineers and dementia scientists approaching things from new angles. I find that very exciting”

Sir James Dyson said: “I believe the world’s most challenging problems can be solved by scientists and engineers who strive towards solutions while others throw their hands up in despair. Dr Claire Durrant isn’t afraid to try something new and break from the scientific consensus as she races to find treatments for dementia. Sir Jackie Stewart introduced us through his wonderful Race Against Dementia programme and I am so pleased to support her research, which could solve one of the most devastating, unanswered problems in the medical world that will affect so many of us. This isn’t just about a donation but also collaboration – Dyson engineers and dementia scientists approaching things from new angles. I find that very exciting.”

Claire’s team works in partnership with neurosurgeon Dr Paul Brennan, from the University’s Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences. Small pieces of healthy human brain, which are collected with the patient’s permission and would otherwise be destroyed, can be kept alive in Claire’s new lab for several weeks.

Using cutting-edge microscopes and equipment, Claire and her core research team (Dr Soraya Meftah and Lewis Taylor) explore how the sample brain cells respond to toxic proteins – linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease – and potential therapies.

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“I hope the work we conduct in this project will bring us one step closer to a world free from the heartbreak of dementia”

Dr Claire Durrant said: “This project will enable us to develop world leading research tools using live human brain, something only a handful of labs have access to world-wide. With this generous support from Race Against Dementia and the James Dyson Foundation we are able to bring this amazing technology to the University of Edinburgh, enabling us to explore exactly how Alzheimer’s disease damages the brain. I hope the work we conduct in this project will bring us one step closer to a world free from the heartbreak of dementia.”

To mark the opening, Sir Jackie Stewart and Sir James Dyson toured laboratories at the University of Edinburgh to witness the research project in action and spoke to Claire’s team about their progress and aims for the future.

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WHAT IS DEMENTIA?

Dementia impacts memory, thinking and behaviour and includes several types of cognitive decline, such as Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, vascular dementia and Lewy body dementia.

OUR RESEARCH

The Race Against Dementia Fellowship Programme funds and supports the world’s most promising scientific talent. We back promising research projects that will accelerate progress towards a cure and treatment.

Memories

In this Memories series, our founder Sir Jackie Stewart OBE discusses memories of a remarkable life in motorsport, business and beyond.

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