Race Against Dementia Fellow
University College London, UK
Dr Aitana Sogorb-Esteve has a degree in biology at the University of Alicante and a master’s degree and PhD in neuroscience at the University Miguel Hernandez de Elche in Spain. Aitana worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Dementia Research Centre at University College London, studying fluid biomarkers in frontotemporal dementia.
Aitana was awarded a RAD Fellowship in 2021. Her research studies biomarkers to assess the synaptic dysfunction in frontotemporal dementia. She is developing a method to measure these synaptic markers in blood samples.
“I am very eager to learn from Formula 1 engineers and mentors to speed up the development of my project. The combination of expertise that the fellowship offers will be the key to create life-changing breakthroughs in dementia research”
Dr Aitana Sogorb-Esteve
With frontotemporal dementia (FTD), the brain’s nerve cells lose their normal function, affecting behaviour, language and movement. The connections between nerve cells are called synapses – little is known about how these are affected in FTD.
Aitana is investigating what goes wrong in synapses by studying the proteins found within them. These proteins can be measured using mass spectrometry, but blood samples are more readily available. Consequently, Aitana is developing a new protocol to measure synaptic proteins in the blood by extracting extracellular vesicles that originate from the brain. Mass spectrometry will then measure the level of synaptic proteins contained within these vesicles.
The project allows a greater understanding of how synapses change from the pre-symptomatic to the symptomatic period – taking advantage of the Genetic FTD Initiative’s large sample set. Beyond providing insight into the mechanisms of disease, the development of such markers will benefit future trials, potentially indicating restoration of synaptic function after treatment.