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UK DRI (Dementia Research Institute), Centre Director, University College London

Cure Alzheimer’s Fund Research Leadership Group

Karen Duff is a leader in the field of neurodegenerative diseases and has worked for more than 30 years on Alzheimer’s disease and tauopathies. Dr. Duff’s lab investigates how to stop the spread of tau and slow disease progression. Additionally, her lab seeks to answer key questions in dementia research, such as why the abnormal accumulation of tau leads to many types of diseases, why certain neurons are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of tau and how to clear tau from the brain. 

Dr. Duff is developing state-of-the-art cell and animal models of Alzheimer’s disease to test a range of therapies. She also is applying newly developed techniques to understand how individual brain cells function in the healthy and Alzheimer’s disease brain. Her hope is that this will help make it easier to target therapies to protect vulnerable brain cells and strengthen resilient cells.  

Both her mother and father (now deceased) were diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia, a neurodegenerative disease that has many similarities to Alzheimer’s disease.  

“When we look at the brain of someone who has died of Alzheimer’s disease, it’s like looking at the aftermath of a car wreck and trying to understand from the mangled wreckage what caused it. We have to understand the events that led to the wreckage, but we have to work backward, thinking of all the possible causes, developing tools to explore each possibility along the way. 

“[Support from Cure Alzheimer’s Fund has been] absolutely fundamental and essential to my lab’s continued success. In the past, Cure Alzheimer’s Fund funding has helped bridge gaps in funding that would have been devasting to the continuity of my research, without which I might not have been able to get the bigger grants that allowed my lab to thrive. More recently, Cure Alzheimer’s Fund funding has enabled me to start new projects, at an early stage, when they were still highly exploratory, for what are turning out to be highly impactful projects. Cure Alzheimer’s Fund provides unparalleled flexibility and speed to put into practice good ideas that would otherwise take years to get funded and off the ground.” 

Read Dr. Duff’s take on “Right drug, right patient, right time: Unravelling clinical trial failures in dementia” and obstacles facing the dementia field, her research into the fundamental biology behind Alzheimer’s diseases and where to go from here. 

To learn more about Dr. Duff’s research, click here, and the progress made in her three decades of research, click here