Dr Laura Palmer - Manager of the South West Dementia Brain Bank (SWDBB)

Laura took her BRACE-funded, part-time PhD at the University of Bristol between 2006 and 2014.

Laura’s PhD work investigated the role of the renin angiotensin system (RAS) in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and vascular dementia (VaD). This important enzyme pathway and signalling system acts in the body to control blood pressure (BP), fluid balance and hormone secretion. An independent RAS is also found within the brain; some of its components are thought to transmit information or alter the function of nerve cells and have been reported to influence behaviour and cognition. Research has shown that high blood pressure in mid-life can be a risk factor for AD and that some medications for blood pressure can lower the risk or improve outcomes for people with dementia. Of these medications, those that target the RAS may have added benefits to cognition.

Laura used brain tissue donated to the SWDBB to show that key RAS components exist in the brain and are altered in both AD and VaD (although in differing ways). As RAS-inhibiting drugs are frequently prescribed to patients to reduce their BP it is essential that we better understand the normal role of the RAS in the brain and its role in disease, to ensure that available drugs can be used most effectively. A number of aspects of this important BRACE-funded research have now been followed up including some proteins that are potential targets for drug treatments, as well as providing Laura with the academic training and skills required to become the Manager of one of the leading dementia brain banks in the UK.