Neurodegenerative dementias are pathologies of ageing that progressively and irreversibly induce behavioural and cognitive changes. It is widely accepted that a loss of homeostasis of certain proteins in ageing brains could cause many of these diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, Lewy body dementia and frontotemporal lobar dementia. There is no effective treatment for these diseases, affecting more than 50 million people worldwide.
Among these diseases, tauopathies are a group characterized by abnormal hyperphosphorylation/aggregation of Tau in the brain, including Alzheimer's disease, cortico-basal degeneration, progressive supranuclear palsy, frontotemporal dementia and primary age-related tauopathy. Most of these tauopathies develop slowly, subtly and progressively, with considerable inter-individual variability. Among the brain diagnostic methods used routinely, brain imaging techniques pose problems of cost and accessibility, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) sampling is invasive. It does not allow the topography of brain lesions to be determined longitudinally. In recent years, research efforts have suggested that blood tests for brain-derived proteins could provide a practical, cost-effective and non-invasive alternative. This holds out the hope of detecting and treating patients earlier.
However, the relevance of a circulating protein assay in plasma (or CSF) falls far short of reflecting the topographical and subcellular complexity of tauopathies. Despite more than eight decades of research into Alzheimer's disease and tauopathies, many questions remain to be answered, probably explaining the failures of past therapeutic strategies.
Our research unit's watchword is to conduct translational research as close as possible to clinical reality (in close collaboration with the Leenaards Memory Centre, which diagnoses patients with cognitive decline). Using a combination of animal models, cell cultures, modified viral vectors, high-throughput microscopy, proteomic analysis, post-mortem tissues and patient plasma/CSF, our main objectives are:
1. To understand the links between protein dysregulation in the brain and cognitive impairment in the ageing process.
2. To develop new methods for the early diagnosis and stratification of dementia.
Non-invasive multimarker diagnostic for Alzheimer's disease detection and targeted therapeutics
Exploring the Use of Plasma Biomarkers for Diagnosing Alzheimer’s Disease in African Populations: A Swiss-Cameroonian Collaboration
3. Assess the potential of new therapeutic approaches in tauopathies.