• Collaboration to broaden understanding of Alzhemer’s diseases
    Brain scan (Credit: Sheffield Hallum University)

Research News

Collaboration to broaden understanding of Alzhemer’s diseases

Mar 13 2024

Sheffield Hallam University and clinical stage pharmaceutical company PharmaKure have entered into a partnership that will focus on gene-based environmental biomarkers, or epigenetic markers, for calculating risk scores for Alzheimer’s diseases (AD).

The collaborative study, which will use the company’s ALZmetrixTM blood-based biomarker aims to gain a better understanding of AD mechanisms in order to identify those more at risk of developing the disease and enable provision of appropriate interventions much earlier in the disease pathology.

Professor Gavin Reynolds, Biomolecular Sciences Research Centre, Sheffield Hallam University, who has published over 300 papers on the pathology of neurotransmitter systems involved in psychiatric disorders and now focuses on epigenetics effects in neuro diseases explained: “We have been working on the relationship of environmental stresses with respect to brain diseases. Our genes are coded in our DNA, but epigenetics looks at how the cell turns genes on and off according to different environmental exposure, such as the aging process, stress, trauma etc. We want to identify abnormal epigenetic changes associated with brain diseases and these changes may be modifiable with medications.”

Dr Helene Fachim, Neuroscientist, PharmaKure, said, “Mental health and the environment can both contribute to the development of brain diseases. Influences, such as trauma and chronic stress, can bring about epigenetic changes to DNA that may result in a range of psychiatric and neurological disorders. We are therefore looking for epigenetic factors that are specifically related to Alzheimer’s Disease.”

“We would like to use these epigenetic approaches for a better understanding of AD, so that we can stratify a person’s risk of developing it. Then, we could act in preventive ways, or administer AD drugs earlier in life when they are more effective.”

AD is a multifactorial disease and it is known that environmental factors can make an important contribution to triggering it. The study’s main hypothesis is that there is differential methylation in certain target genes related to AD compared to non-AD controls. If this hypothesis proves to be true, Pharmakure can start the validation of an epigenetic predictive risk score for cognitive impairment and AD.

“We are very positive and excited about this new epigenetics collaboration and we believe that bringing together academia and industry is the best way to achieve our goals. We are looking forward to sharing important results in the near future,” said Dr. Farid Khan, CEO, PharmaKure.

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