Dr Adam Smith – Post-Doctoral Researcher, University of Exeter

Dr Adam Smith completed his PhD in summer 2019, working with Dr Katie Lunnon and Professor Jonathan Mill in the Complex Disease Epigenetics group.

“Epigenetics” looks at how behaviours and the environment can cause changes to the way genes work in the body. These changes can lead to diseases such as cancer and potentially Alzheimer’s disease. Not all gene changes cause illness and not all changes are permanent.

Adam’s research focused on studying these epigenetic changes in relation to Alzheimer’s disease in one specific gene called ANK1. He found that at least three mechanisms that regulate ANK1 are altered in Alzheimer’s disease. Interestingly, Adam found that one of the mechanisms altered in Alzheimer’s disease was also altered in other brain diseases, including Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease, and BRACE have recently funded the research team to investigate the epigenetic link between Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease further.

Adam’s study is very important as it shows that epigenetic changes in the ANK1 gene are important in different dementias. One of the most exciting aspects of studying epigenetic mechanisms is that they are potentially reversible and so could be targeted when developing new treatment possibilities for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Adam says ‘My PhD was a fantastic opportunity, which I enjoyed immensely. Since completing I have taken up a permanent position continuing my research interest into the causes of dementia.’


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