The Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences (CCBS) was established in 2004. It is a multidisciplinary translational "centre without walls" combining basic and applied research to study the causes, consequences and treatment of major brain disorders. Our major disease targets, that straddle the disciplines of Neurology and Psychiatry, include: bipolar disorders, brain cancer, multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, prion disease, schizophrenia, stroke and epilepsy.
Dementia experts join forces in global bid to tackle disease
Dementia experts are forming the world's largest research group in the field to tackle the condition. They hope to improve the detection, treatment and ultimately prevention of dementia by looking at the disease in the context of the whole body and not only the brain.
Investigator teams from eight UK universities Å including the University of Edinburgh Å are joining forces with industry experts from pharmaceutical and biotech companies to form the UK Dementia Platform (UKDP).
The team will study data from two million volunteers aged 50 and over who have taken part in existing research projects such as UK Biobank, a long term national health study. Participants in these studies have generously provided a wealth of medical and lifestyle data which experts will examine alongside ongoing genetic studies, brain imaging and tests of mental skills.
Researchers hope to gain a better understanding of who is at risk of developing dementia, possible triggers for the disease, and what might speed or slow its progress. The aim is to identify biological changes and shifts in thinking abilities that are linked to the condition. It is hoped that this could lead to earlier detection and improved monitoring of dementia and will help design better ways of testing new treatments. Looking at the links between development of dementia and other factors Å such as diet or illness Å could also unearth targets for new treatments or new uses for existing drugs. Data from the project will be made available to scientists around the world in a bid to accelerate progress in dementia research and encourage innovation.
The collaboration - which is being led by the Medical Research Council - was announced on 20th June 2014 by Prime Minister David Cameron in a speech at a summit of world health and finance leaders in London. Four of the 14 research leaders who will steer the project are from the University of Edinburgh including scientists from the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, the Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre, Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences and The Roslin Institute.
Professor Ian Deary, Director of the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, said: "We are delighted that the University has the opportunity to take a leading role in such an important programme of research. Looking at dementia in the context of the whole body is one that we have already taken in our cognitive ageing studies in Edinburgh, and one that we hope will yield significant breakthroughs in this larger setting."
Professor Cathie Sudlow of the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, who is also Chief Scientist at UK Biobank, said: "This initiative has the potential to make a significant global impact in the battle against dementia."
Neuroresearchers Fund Awards
Professor Gillian Mead (CCBS) has co-authored a new guideline on physical activity and exercise recommendations for stroke survivors. The guideline discusses the really important issue of inactivity after stroke, and what we can do about it. It has beenCongratulations to two CCBS researchers who have been awarded Neuroresearcher funds. The aim of this fund is to assist in the establishment of new collaborations, bring new techniques to Edinburgh to benefit the community, and enable attendance at high profile techniques-based workshops.
The CCBS awardees were:
Mark Hughes, who was awarded £870 towards a visit to Charlottesville, USA to learn a new technique (trans-cranial magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound) as a potential new surgical approach to treating conditions such as Parkinson's.
Lynsey Hall, who was awarded £500 towards the costs of attending the Wellcome Trust Advanced Course in Genetic Analysis of Multifactorial Diseases in Cambridge in July.
We would also like to offer our congratulations to the other six winners.
Physical Activity and Exercise Recommendations for Stroke Survivors
Professor Gillian Mead (CCBS) has co-authored a new guideline on physical activity and exercise recommendations for stroke survivors. The guideline discusses the really important issue of inactivity after stroke, and what we can do about it. It has been published in Stroke, doi: 10.1161/STR.0000000000000022.
Causes of depression in spotlight with £4.7m funding boost
People suffering from clinical depression, and those at risk from the condition, could benefit from a major medical research initiative that is being led by Prof Andrew McIntosh (Psychiatry, CCBS). The Stratifying Resilience and Depression Longitudinally (STRADL) project has been awarded £4.7million from the Wellcome Trust to study the condition in new ways in the hope of developing better treatments. In addition to CCBS researchers from Psychiatry, the project involves the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology (CCACE), the Institute for Genetics and Molecular Medicine (IGMM) and brain imaging facilities in Edinburgh and at the University of Aberdeen.
Over the next five years, the scientists will study groups of people who have known depression risk factors. These include family history of low mood, diseases like heart disease and diabetes and early life problems such as low birth weight or childhood psychological trauma. Researchers will then use memory, reasoning and mental speed tests as well as brain imaging to find out whether specific subgroups of patients correspond to specific disorders. Prof McIntosh said: "For many people, the symptom of low mood is the most understandable of reactions to loss or stress, yet we remain ignorant of its causes and mechanisms. This means that progress in discovering new and more effective treatments is slow. This Wellcome Trust grant will enable us to make significant progress with this common and disabling condition."
Prestigious Award for CCBS Researcher Dr Jon Stone
Congratulations to Dr Jon Stone on being awarded the Jean Hunter Prize for Nervous Diseases by the Royal College of Physicians of London for his work on Functional Disorders. Former awardees include Dame Kay Davies, Prof Doug Tunrbull, Prof John Newsom Davies, Dame Pam Shaw and Sir Simon Wessely, so Jon is in magnificent company! Jon will be presented with his award on 27th May. Read Jon Stones profile on the Clinical Neurosiceneces Website
Launch of the world's biggest study of cognitive function
A third of a million adults in the UK are to be invited to take part in the world's biggest study of cognitive function. The trial aims to predict which factors may increase the risk of developing dementia.
All the participants will be part of UK Biobank, and previously gave DNA samples and lifestyle information. They will be asked to do a series of memory and reasoning tests online.
Professor Cathie Sudlow (CCBS) is Chief Scientist of UK Biobank. Cathie described the project on radio and TV news bulletins on Friday 2nd May.
Coverage on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme (1hr 34min in) [available until 8th May 2014]
Stroke recovery chances step up with exercise
Regular exercise can speed recovery for stroke survivors and may reduce their risk of having another stroke. Professor Gillian Mead (CCBS) has been researching the benefits of exercise on stroke recovery for more than 10 years. She will be speaking about her research at a public event on Tues 15th April as part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival.
Prof Mead's findings reveal that a structured physical training plan - including aerobic, strength and balance training - can help stroke survivors to become more mobile, improve their balance and reduce their disability. She is currently investigating whether breaking up long periods of sitting or lying - so-called 'sedentary' behaviour - with short periods of movement might help to bring down the risk of having another stroke.
Professor Mead said: "We're working with fitness experts to determine the best 'exercise prescription' for stroke survivors. It's also important that we understand more about the factors that put patients off from taking part in exercise programs, and how we can motivate them to take advantage of the benefits."
See coverage on the BBC news website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-27023739
Congratulations to Katie McGoohan
Congratulations to Katie McGoohan (Masters of Nursing in Clinical Research student at the University of Edinburgh), who has been awarded a prestigious Stroke Association Postgraduate Fellowship for nurses to do a PhD. Katie will be co-supervised by Rustam Al-Shahi Salman (CCBS) and Sheila Rodgers (Nursing Studies). Her clinical research project will be based with the Stroke Research Group and will focus on the participants in LINCHPIN, a clinico-radio-pathological case control study of the causes of intracerebral haemorrhage. This study is part of the Research to Understand Cerebral Haemorrhage (RUSH) programme that is led by Prof Al-Shahi Salman.
Can the damaged brain repair itself? Siddharthan Chandran's TED talk now online
The talk that CCBS Director Siddharthan Chandran gave at TEDGlobal last year is now available to view online at here... In this short talk, Siddharthan explores how it might be possible to heal damage from degenerative disorders such as MS and motor neurone disease (ALS).
Video overview of the Human Brain Project featuring Prof Seth Grant
The Human Brain Project (HBP) is the world's largest neuroscience project (https://www.humanbrainproject.eu/en_GB) aiming to generate data, infrastructure and resources for the research community, develop new clinical tools and train students. The University of Edinburgh is highly involved in the project with CCBS Professor Seth Grant, one of the architects of the HBP, leading the work on the molecular and cellular programs. The HBP also includes Prof Siddharthan Chandran and computational scientist Prof Douglas Armstrong (Informatics). A video has been developed providing an overview of the project with Seth making an appearance halfway through. Watch it here: http://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/en/news/human-brain-project-video-presenting-flagship-project.
Edinburgh receiving large slice of funding from MRC UK Dementias Research Platform
The Medical Research Council (MRC) yesterday announced a £5M programme to accelerate progress in dementias research. Launching in April 2014, the MRC UK Dementias Research Platform (UKDP) is a public-private partnership that will unite a wealth of partners and knowledge in a fresh drive to understand neurodegenerative disease onset and progression. The Platform will combine a broad conceptual approach with cutting-edge technologies and significant statistical power, integrating UK strengths in neuroscience, population science and clinical research capability.
Approximately £1.5M is ear-marked for Edinburgh researchers Cathie Sudlow (CCBS), Ian Deary (CCACE and CCBS), John Starr (CCACE and CCBS) and Jean Manson (Roslin and CCBS). £1M will be to lead work on the identification and adjudication of dementia and related neurodegenerative outcomes; £0.5M will be for cognitive re-assessment in the UK Biobank. Many congratulations all!
Welcome to new CCBS member Susan Shenkin
Susan Shenkin is a clinical academic in Geriatric Medicine. She was appointed as a Senior Clinical Lecturer in 2011, following clinical and academic training in Edinburgh, resulting in an MSc in Epidemiology and an MD (http://www.geriatric.med.ed.ac.uk/susan%20shenkin.htm). Her clinical work at Liberton hospital covers the range of older people's rehabilitation, with a particular interest in delirium and dementia in the acute hospital.
CCBS research suggests blood vessel tangles in the brain best left alone
Patients with a condition that causes blood vessels in the brain to form an abnormal tangle could be helped by CCBS research findings. An international trial, led in the UK by Professor Rustam Al-Shahi Salman and published in the Lancet, suggests that the safest way of managing arteriovenous malformations (AVM) of the brain is to treat the patient's symptoms only, and not the AVM. The researchers found that people with an AVM - causing disrupted blood flow in the brain - are three times more likely to suffer stroke from the AVM bursting or die within three years if the tangled vessels are treated.
More than 200 patients with a brain AVM were followed for 33 months. The risks linked to treatment of AVMs were much higher than those associated with leaving them alone. The findings build on previous research showing that annually, only one in every hundred patients with a brain AVM suffer a stroke, and the other 99 per cent do not. If a brain AVM ruptures, the initial effects are often mild: common symptoms include headaches and epilepsy.
Professor Al-Shahi Salman said: "We have found clear evidence of harm to patients in the short term from treatments to obliterate AVMs that have never bled in the past. Observation of trial participants must continue for at least another five years to find out if this difference persists."
Read the article at: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(13)62302-8/fulltext
Rugby star joins CCBS scientists in bid to tackle motor neurone disease
A World Cup-winning rugby star is joining forces with researchers at the Euan MacDonald Centre for Motor Neurone Disease Research in a new partnership to tackle motor neurone disease (MND).
South African Joost van der Westhuizen part of the victorious Springboks team of 1995 has launched a collaboration with scientists from the Euan MacDonald Centre. The new partnership will see members and supporters of the player's J9 Foundation meet EMC members to discuss the latest developments in research. We hope that in time the collaboration will bring benefit to MND patients as knowledge and expertise are shared.
When he retired from international rugby in 2003, Joost van der Westhuizen was the most capped South African player, with 89 Test caps and 38 Test tries, a record only recently broken. Joost was diagnosed with MND in 2011. MND is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that leads to weakness and wasting of muscles, causing paralysis and difficulties with speech, swallowing and breathing. Following his diagnosis, the former scrum-half set up the J9 Foundation, which provides support and care to MND sufferers, their families and carers.
The J9 Foundation visit to Edinburgh is part of a 10-day stay in the UK aimed at raising awareness and funds to support those affected by MND. Among the events planned is a fundraising quiz (Joost a Sports Quiz) at Murrayfield stadium, Edinburgh, tonight. Joost van der Westhuizen will also be honoured by the Scottish Rugby Union ahead of the South Africa and Scotland international on Sunday.
Professor Siddharthan Chandran, Director of the Euan MacDonald Centre, said "Solving the enormous challenge of MND or ALS requires partnership and collaboration. We are delighted to work with South African colleagues and the J9 foundation to promote better understanding of this devastating disease."
Euan MacDonald, Founder of the Euan MacDonald Centre and former rugby player, added "We are delighted to welcome Joost and the J9 Foundation delegation to Edinburgh. We are honoured that they have travelled so far to raise awareness of this condition and we look forward to developing this new partnership."
Joost van der Westhuizen said "This is going to be the most important tour of my life. We are not only raising awareness and funds, for the first time we are bringing international research partnerships home. In the beginning you go through all the emotions and you ask, 'Why me?' It's quite simple, 'Why not me?' If I have to go through this to help future generations, why not me?"
Welcome to new CCBS member Szu-Han Wang
Szu-Han Wang is a Caledonian research fellow affiliated with CCBS and the Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems (CCNS) who will be working mainly in the Chancellor's building, Little France. She has recently completed a postdoc with Prof Richard Morris in CCNS and has also worked and studied in Toronto, Montreal and Taipei. Szu-Han is passionate about understanding how learning and memory is formed and its underlying brain mechanisms. She is investigating how memory consolidation and reconsolidation occur in the brain, how prior experience affects subsequent learning, and how peri-learning events affect memory persistence. Together, these studies point to an integrated view on the learning and memory process instead of treating it as an isolated event. This view has major implication in translating preclinical models to clinical studies and in stimulating treatments for memory-related disorders.
The Anne Rowling Clinic was officially opened by HRH The Princess Royal on Tuesday 8th October 2013.
The Princess Royal, who is Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, was given a tour of the Clinic during which staff and students demonstrated the facilities and described current research projects.
J.K. Rowling, Founder of the Clinic, also attended the event, with members of her family.
In a statement, she said "I am moved and elated to see the Anne Rowling Clinic formally opened today by HRH The Princess Royal. Having observed the plans for the Clinic develop and expand to fulfil the needs of patients, clinicians and researchers, I am now very proud to see the building finished and operating as the beating heart of this centre for excellence. Thank you to everyone who has been involved in its creation and operation."
The Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic is a hub for clinical research and trials into neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease. It works in close cooperation with researchers at CCBS and other affiliated centres.
Clinic co-Director Siddharthan Chandran said "We are delighted to officially open this Clinic. All patients with these tough diseases need treatments that will slow, stop and ideally reverse damage. The Anne Rowling Clinic will pioneer discovery science and innovative clinical research through strong partnerships with the NHS, academia and industry around the world. Only by better understanding the biological processes behind these devastating diseases can we identify new targets for potential therapies and take them into clinical trials."
First CCBS away-day a great success
The first CCBS away-day was held in the magnificent surroundings of the Playfair Library Hall, Old College, on Monday 30th Sept 2013. Around 100 staff and students attended a day of lively talks and discussions, punctuated by a surprisingly impressive lunch.
The talks included global overviews of Psychiatry from Stephen Lawrie and Neuroimaging from Joanna Wardlaw, succinct presentations from students and postdocs and research overviews from Seth Grant, guest James Boardman and new recruit Dies Meijer. Swiss artist Fabian Oefner gave a fascinating insight into his work exploring the interface of science and art through high-speed photography, David Hunt gave an honest account of the trials and tribulations of the fellowship-funding process and John Paul Leach rounded off the day beautifully with his amusing and motivating view of the future of clinical neurology.
The most unusual part of the day was speed networking, organised by Will Whiteley and Rustam Al-Shahi Salman. Backed by what must be an incredibly complex algorithm, everyone in the room spent periods of five minutes chatting in small groups before being moved on to meet others at the ringing of an old school bell. Although most people were dubious at first, this exercise was very enjoyable and useful, and many new connections were forged.
The whole day was relaxed yet inspiring, and everyone agreed that it was great to bring the diverse members of CCBS together and demonstrate the many commonalities in research strategy and methods. We will look forward to another away-day next year.
Photos can be viewed here...
Transatlantic partnership to tackle neurodegenerative diseases
Research into multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease is to be boosted with an international collaboration to further understanding of these illnesses.
Experts from the University of Edinburgh and the Massachusetts-based biotechnology company Biogen Idec will work together to seek greater insight into the cell processes behind these debilitating conditions.
This will include identifying drug compounds that could potentially be used as treatments.
The three-year collaboration will combine the University's expertise in translational medicine - which develops laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients - with Biogen Idec's strength in drug discovery and development.
Siddharthan Chandran, Professor of Neurology, said: "This landmark partnership is a brilliant example of academic-industrial collaboration in the field of discovery science. Only by better understanding the biological processes behind these devastating diseases can we hope to discover new and effective therapies."
Clinicians and scientists, based at Edinburgh BioQuarter - Scotland's flagship lifesciences project - will be involved in the project, which will draw on the University's strength in neuroscience, stem cell research and regeneration.
The initiative is being funded by Biogen Idec, which is known for its strength in developing therapies for neurological disorders, particularly its portfolio of treatments for patients with multiple sclerosis.
"We have embraced academic collaborations as a part of our strategy to maintain a vibrant and innovative research organization and better understand the underlying biology of neurodegenerative disease. Our research partnership with the University of Edinburgh is an excellent example of this strategy," said Ken Rhodes, Vice President of Neurology Research at Biogen Idec. "We are committed to continuing to improve the treatment of people with MS and motor neuron diseases, and this collaboration is expected to provide an in-depth portrait of their pathophysiology, and identify important new targets for potential therapies."
New clinical trial for secondary progressive multiple sclerosis
The Multiple Sclerosis - Secondary Progressive Multi-Arm Randomisation Trial (MS-SMART) will test the effects of three known drugs (ibudilast, riluzole and amiloride) versus placebo in secondary progressive MS. These drugs are already used to treat motor neurone disease (MND), heart disease or asthma.
The trial is being run by the University of Edinburgh and University College London and is supported by the MS Society. Up to 15 UK trial sites have been identified, to compare these already licensed drugs against a placebo in 440 patients with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. Participants, who have a late-stage progressive form of multiple sclerosis, will be monitored for two years.
"This is a landmark study that seeks to not only test three potential treatments but also showcase a new approach to clinical trials for progressive neurological conditions." Professor Siddharthan Chandran, Director of the Anne Rowling Clinic
Researchers will use MRI scans and other clinical measures to test for signs of MS disease progression. If successful, the drugs will be the first ever disease modifying treatment for people with secondary progressive MS.
The three drugs for the trial were identified after a systematic review of previously published research of potentially neuro-protective treatments. Research funded by the MS Society developed methods and techniques for the trial.
All MRI scans carried out during the trial will be analysed at the MS Society-supported NMR Research Unit at UCL's Institute of Neurology, led by Professor David Miller. Biomarker studies for the trial will be led by Professor Gavin Giovannoni (Bart's and the London School of Medicine, Queen Mary University of London).
Dr Susan Kohlhaas, Head of Biomedical Research at the MS Society, said: "People with MS have lived for years in hope that one day we will find an effective treatment for secondary progressive MS; this trial, although still early stage, takes us one step closer to make that hope a reality."
"While there are an increasing number of treatments for MS that can reduce the frequency or severity of MS relapses, there's nothing that can stop the rapid accumulation of disability in people with secondary progressive MS; it's a huge unmet need in the treatment of the condition, and despite many clinical trials, scientists have so far failed to find anything that works." Dr Jeremy Chataway, Consultant Neurologist at University College London.
MS-SMART is an investigator-led project sponsored by University College London (UCL). This independent research is awarded by the Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation Programme (EME) and funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the MS Society. It is managed by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) on behalf of the MRC-NIHR partnership. Two commercial companies, Medicinova (ibudilast) and Genzyme Therapeutics Ltd (riluzole), are also supporting the study by donating the supply of the drugs ibudilast and riluzole for use in this trial only.
Trial recruitment will begin in the autumn. For more information visit http://www.ms-smart.org/
Regenerating Hope: Siddharthan Chandran gives TED talk
12 June 2013
Director of the Anne Rowling Clinic Siddharthan Chandran has given a talk at TEDGlobal 2013 today on the theme of "Regeneration".
In his talk, "Regenerating Hope", Siddharthan described his vision for using stem cells to repair brains damaged by neurodegenerative disease.
See a description of his talk and more images at: http://blog.ted.com/2013/06/12/regenerating-hope-tedglobal-2013-with-siddharthan-chandran/
Television and radio coverage for brain cooling in stroke
Television and radio stations have been reporting how Prof Malcolm Macleod is testing whether cooling the brain can help stroke patients.
Prof Macleod is leading a trial testing a new device, Brain Cool, which is designed to cool the blood in a patients neck and therefore cool the blood reaching the brain. They are testing whether this could help treat people suffering a stroke and, if successful, could lead to brain-cooling treatment being available in ambulances.
The following links are active until Thursday.
For BBC 1 Scotland: Click here to access streaming
For Scottish Television: Click here to access streaming
For BBC Radio Scotland: Click here to access streaming
New Edinburgh-India partnership to tackle brain disorders
A major new initiative in neuroscience between the University of Edinburgh and the Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (inStem), Bangalore, was inaugurated by the Principal, Professor Sir Timothy O'Shea, on 16th February. The new Centre for Brain Development and Repair will be supported by the Indian Department of Biotechnology. The team, which includes Profs Siddharthan Chandran (CCBS), Peter Kind (CIP) and Richard Morris (CCNS), will involve scientists working on joint projects in Bangalore and Edinburgh. The initial focus of this new joint Centre will be on autism spectrum disorders and intellectual disabilities. See the news item on the inStem website at http://instem.res.in/research/research-themes/centre-for-brain-development-and-repair
The announcement comes as part of a wider UK-India partnership announced today by the Prime Minister (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-21495635)
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