Double funding success for Leeanne McGurk

Published on 24 August 2023

Leeanne McGurk has been awarded ~£800k to fund her research into Alzheimer’s and Motor Neuron Disease.

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In the UK there are currently 5,000 people with a motor neuron disease (MND) called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), ~40,000 people with frontotemporal dementia and almost ~630,000 people with Alzheimer’s disease. There is a desperate need for medicines for these diseases. There are no current effective treatments because we do not yet understand exactly how these diseases occur. The research of Dr Leeanne McGurk, a Principal Investigator in the Division of Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology in the School of Life Sciences, hopes to change that.

Leeanne explains, “What is known is that people with these diseases have a toxic build-up of unfolded proteins in their nerve cells. For the body’s nerve cells to stay alive and to work properly, these proteins inside the cells must be able to properly fold to carry out their job. An important example of a protein that can become unfolded in nerve cells has the name TDP-43.” 

“Normally, TDP-43 is found in the centre of the cell, which is called the nucleus. In almost all people diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, 45% of people diagnosed with a dementia called frontotemporal dementia and up to 57% of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, TDP-43 leaves the nucleus and builds up as unfolded protein that kills the nerve cells that lead to disease. This funding will allow my lab to better understand what causes the build-up of TDP-43 paving the way for future medicines that may prevent and treat motor neuron disease and dementia.” 

The funding has come from two sources, an Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Research Leader Fellowship (worth ~£550k over 5 years) and a Target ALS New Investigator Award (worth $260,000 over 2 years).


Brain tissue from a person with frontotemporal dementia examined for TDP-43 build-up (TDP-43 is the brown colour)

Brain tissue from a person with frontotemporal dementia examined for TDP-43 build up (TDP-43 is the brown colour)

Story category Research