Race Against Dementia Fellow
University College London, UK
Dr Sogorb-Esteve completed a degree in biology at the University of Alicante, her hometown in Spain; followed by a masters degree and PhD in neuroscience at the University Miguel Hernandez de Elche in Spain. Aitana then worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Dementia Research Centre at University College London, studying fluid biomarkers in frontotemporal dementia.
Aitana was awarded the RAD Fellowship in 2021. Her research is focused on the study of biomarkers to assess the synaptic dysfunction in frontotemporal dementia. She is developing a method to measure these synaptic markers in blood samples.
“This fellowship offers the best scenario for developing dementia research thanks to Sir Jackie Stewart’s input from Formula 1. I am very eager to learn from Formula 1 engineers and mentors to speed up the development of my project and apply their ideas to my research. I truly believe that the combination of expertise this fellowship offers will be the key to create life-changing breakthroughs in dementia research.”
Dr Aitana Sogorb-Esteve
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a condition affecting the brain that can result in changes in behaviour, language or movement. The development of such symptoms is caused by nerve cells in the brain losing their normal function. The connections between nerve cells are called synapses but little is known about how these are affected in FTD. Dr Sogorb-Esteve is investigating what goes wrong in synapses by studying the proteins that are found within them. These proteins can be measured in life in the cerebrospinal fluid using a method called mass spectrometry. However, blood samples are more easily acquired and so a new protocol will be developed to measure these proteins in blood by extracting particles called extracellular vesicles that enter the blood from the brain. Once extracted, the level of synaptic proteins contained in such vesicles will also be measured using mass spectrometry.
The project uses a large set of samples from the Genetic FTD Initiative allowing an understanding of how synapses change from the pre-symptomatic through to the symptomatic period. Beyond providing important insight into the mechanisms of disease, the development of such markers will be useful for future trials, potentially indicating restoration of synaptic function after treatment.