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New Deputy Chairs of Faculty
The Faculty of SEM is delighted to announce that David Davies has been appointed as Deputy Chair of Faculty (External Relations), and Georgia Kremmyda has been appointed as his successor in the role of Deputy Chair of Faculty (Education).
Protein biomarkers predict dementia 15 years before diagnosis – according to new study
In the largest study of its kind, scientists have shown how protein “biomarkers” predict dementia 15 years before diagnosis.
The research, published today in Nature Aging, shows how profiles of proteins in the blood accurately predict dementia up to 15 years prior to clinical diagnosis. These are known as biomarkers, which are molecules found in blood, other body fluids, or tissues that is a sign of a normal or abnormal process, or of a condition or disease.
In the study, scientists from The University of Warwick and Fudan University, Shanghai used the largest cohort of blood proteomics and dementia to date, including blood samples from 52,645 healthy participants recruited from UK Biobank – a population-based study cohort.
Blood samples collected between 2006 and 2010 were frozen and then analysed 10-15 years later by the research team who analysed them between April 2021 and February 2022. Until March 2023, a total of 1,417 participants went on to develop dementia – and these people’s blood showed dysregulation of protein biomarkers.
Of 1,463 proteins analysed, aided by with a type of artificial intelligence known as machine learning, 11 proteins were identified and combined as a protein panel, which the researchers have shown to be highly accurate at predicting future dementia. Further incorporation of conventional risk factors of age, sex, education level and genetics, showed for the first time the high accuracy of the predictive model, measured at over 90%*, indicating its potential future use in community-based dementia screening programs.
Proteins (for example Glial Fibrillary acidic protein, GFAP) had previously been identified as potential biomarkers for dementia in smaller studies, but this new research was much larger and conducted over several years. Known as a longitudinal analysis (a study conducted on a sample of participants over a number of years), the researchers were able to show the differences and trajectories between those with dementia and controls across 15 years.
An early diagnosis is critical for those with dementia. New drug technology can slow, or even reverse the progress of Alzheimer’s, but only if the disease is detected early enough. The drug lecanemab is one of two new treatments for the disease.
Lead author Professor Jianfeng Feng, from the Department of Computer Science, University of Warwick, hopes future drugs may be developed to interact with the proteins identified in the study.
Professor Feng emphasised that the combination of artificial intelligence and protein analysis offers a promising avenue for precision medicine. This is highly important for screening mid-aged to older individuals within the community who are at high risk of dementia. “This model could be seamlessly integrated into the NHS and used as a screening tool by GPs”, said Professor Feng.
Professor Wei Cheng, a co-corresponding author from Fudan University, explained that this research builds on the team’s previously developed dementia prediction model which used variables, such as age, presence of a certain gene and mother’s age at death. “Compared to our previous work, the newly developed protein-based model is obviously a breakthrough”, he said.
Another corresponding author Professor Jintai Yu, a neurovegetative disease specialist from Fudan University, added: “The proteomic biomarkers are more easily to access and non-invasive, and they can substantially facilitate the application of large-scale population screening”.
He also pointed drawbacks of previous risk models, which were primarily depended on intricate and difficult-to-obtain biomarkers using procedures such as lumbar puncture or complex imaging methods meaning their widespread use is hindered because of the invasive procedures and the high cost of carrying them out.
Notes to Editors
The University of Warwick signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Fudan University in 2022 and the two Universities work together designing and developing new research projects and run staff and student exchanges.
*The Area Under the Curve (AUC) figure is used to measure how good a model performs. A model whose predictions are 100% wrong has an AUC of 0.0; one whose predictions are 100% correct has an AUC of 1.0. this study had an AUC of over 0.9.
The University works closely with people with dementia and their families at a Dementia Café, set up by Warwick Medical School. Should you wish to speak to a case study, please get in touch.
University of Warwick press office contact:
Annie Slinn 07876876934
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Tom Leonard (1948-2023)
The department was saddened to hear of the death of Tom Leonard on December 18, 2023. Tom was one of the three founding members of staff of the Department in 1972, before leaving to take a position at the University of Wisconsin in 1980. He was influential in the development of the department's MORSE degree programme which flourishes to this day. RIP Tom.
This Valentine's Day Dr Alex Baker explores the real chemistry behind chemistry and explains how flowers and chocolates are as good as any love tinyurl.com/3xv9zbjf
Onion Crisis: Researchers Combatting Destructive Crop Disease Costing Farmers £10m Annually
The British Onions Producers’ Association (BOPA) leads a £1 million project, with researchers from Warwick, industry leaders, and innovators to combat Fusarium Basal Rot (FBR), a menace to the UK onion industry.
Professor John Clarkson, Plant Pathologist, said: “This project is an exciting opportunity for the School of Life Sciences and School of Engineering to provide new approaches to tackling Fusarium basal rot of onion, which is increasingly devastating for UK onion growers. As well as supporting Engineering and the wider consortium with expertise on the disease, my team at the Warwick Crop Centre will develop new DNA-based molecular diagnostic approaches to detect the pathogen in soil so that growers can use this test to avoid planting onions in highly infested fields. The test may also help to assess the risk of onions developing basal rot in storage”.
Press Release (19 February 2024)
The University of Warwick to partner on a £11m Innovation and Knowledge Centre (IKC) for power semiconductors with a range of industrial partners
Three members of staff from WMG, at the University of Warwick, have been praised for their ‘excellent’ work to support the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda (CCA) in implementing Manufacturing 4.0 in Mauritius.
The CCA is a major member-state led initiative to grow intra-commonwealth trade and investment and promote expanded investment to support global growth, create employment, and promote knowledge exchange among Commonwealth members.
The WMG team led by Dr Hamid Moradlou together with colleagues Tarek El-Said from the Supply Chain Group, and Onur Eren from the SME Group, responded to a funding call from the Commonwealth Secretariat to support Commonwealth countries with their connectivity agenda.
The trio were praised for delivering a well-received capacity building programme for local policymakers and manufacturing businesses including comprehensive understanding of Manufacturing 4.0; strategic vision and roadmap development; effective technology integration; change management and innovation; policy navigation; and performance measurement and sustainability.
Dr Hamid Moradlou explained: “This project was a great example of collaboration between industry, academia, and policymakers. The initiative was equally supported by both the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Ministry of Industrial Development, SMEs and Cooperatives in Mauritius, facilitating the work done by WMG in eight manufacturing companies from various sectors. The success of this project has led to further discussions around scaling this project in other Commonwealth countries.”
WMG supports SME manufacturers with digital technologies across the UK. Find out more here: https://warwick.ac.uk/wmg/for-industry/sme-support/
Prof Wolfram's innovative work towards gender equality has led to a Gender Equality Award.
A new study led by our Clinical Trials Unit has found that an online rehabilitation programme improves quality of life for adults with long Covid.