Research highlights

For more details on the research highlights of selected DHT-funded projects click on their titles below.



Click here for a list of all research papers published by current and former Grant Holders based on DHT-funded projects.

Dictyostelium discoideum

© Journal of Cell Science (2014)
adapted with permission



Battling Dementia with the Social Amoeba Dictyostelium

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a devastating condition which leads to dementia. The disease is becoming more prevalent, and we are yet to fully understand its cause. The DHT have been funding Professor Williams at Royal Holloway, whose current research has focused on understanding the mechanisms behind the inherited form of AD, shown to be associated with mutations in two proteins called presenilins. Williams et al. pose a novel way of studying these proteins and their involvement in the development of AD using the amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum, to replace the extensive use of rodents in this field. Professor Williams has demonstrated the suitability and functionality of Dictyostelium as an important non-animal model for future work understanding the role of presenilin proteins, and could provide an important versatile system for future research into this devastating disease and the testing of potential new drugs. This year, the team have had their recent findings published in the Journal of Cell Science!

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Dr garnett

Credit: Vllasaliu et al. (2014)
Used with permission
(CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

Development of Epithelial Cell Models for Drug Transport and Toxicology Studies

The development of medicines suitable for absorption via the gastrointestinal (GI) tract following oral administration relies on evaluation of the transport dynamics of the compounds across the GI tract. Recent advances in ‘nanotechnology’ (a technology that investigates dimensions and tolerances of particles of less than 100 nanometres, and the manipulation of individual atoms and molecules) has led to a pressing need for the development of an improved epithelial model to study the absorption, delivery and screening of these particles across the epithelium. To date, much of the work carried out in this field has involved the experimental use of surgically operated dogs. The DHT have been funding Dr Martin Garnett at the University of Nottingham, whose recent work investigating the movement of macromolecules and nanoparticles across the basement membrane (BM) of the epithelium has recently been published in the Journal of Experimental Cell Research. Current non-animal models do not accurately represent the intestinal epithelium or its environment, partly as models lack a BM and poorly reflect the true physiochemical conditions of the human intestine. Dr Garnett’s novel work has revealed that the movement of macromolecules and nanoparticles was hindered across their novel cell-culture model incorporating BM cells, suggesting that the delivery of bio-therapeutics and nano-medicines via this route may be different to previously thought. In addition, the group has revealed that the BM plays a significant role in cell attachment and morphology, and the protein network does have an effect on the movement of macromolecules and nanoparticles, meaning the BM acts as a barrier. This is the first time this has been shown, and now these findings must now be taken into consideration in the development of future cell-culture models. Dr Garnett’s research has already provided an advanced understanding of the transportation dynamics of a variety of therapeutics across this epithelial barrier in humans.

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