New research environment with focus on diagnosis of dementia

22 December 2021

With a SEK 30 million grant from the Swedish Research Council, Per Andrén, Professor at the Faculty of Pharmacy, will lead an interdisciplinary research project that, using Mass Spectrometry Imaging, will develop a new technology for diagnosing dementia in Parkinson's disease and Lewy body dementia.

Per Andrén, Professor of Mass Spectrometry
Imaging. Photo: Mikael Wallerstedt

"Our new and innovative interdisciplinary research environment will provide groundbreaking clues to the underlying mechanisms of dementia in Parkinson's disease and Lewy body dementia and contribute to the development of wet biomarkers to diagnose these conditions," says Per Andrén, Professor of Mass Spectrometry Imaging at Uppsala University, who will lead the project.

People with Parkinson's disease have a much higher risk of developing dementia. Common symptoms are difficulties to concentrate, memory impairment and executive dysfunctions. People with Lewy body dementia also show these symptoms, but in addition have difficulties with spatial perception and thinking abilities. Lewy body dementia is initially difficult to diagnose and is often mistaken for Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia or Parkinson's disease.

“There is a lack of clinical diagnostic tests and prognostic biomarkers to differentiate these various dementia diseases, which is important in order to provide the patients the correct treatment and to include them in drug studies aiming to slow down the course of the disease,” states Per Andrén.

Detailed knowledge of tissue samples

In the project, that will last 2022–2027, the researchers will use Spatial Omics techniques that enable large-scale imaging analysis of molecules. This means that they provide detailed knowledge of exactly which cells are present in a tissue sample, where they are located in relation to each other and their condition.

“With the help of bioinformatics methods, the images from each Spatial Omics analysis can be combined and provide new information. We also synthesize molecular tools that are used to facilitate analysis of molecules, that are difficult to measure with the various techniques,” says Per Andrén.

The researchers will use tissue samples from Stockholm BioPark and the College Dementia Brain biobank and test pathologically relevant molecules in blood and spinal fluid from a cohort of 650 patients.

Interdisciplinary research on dementia

  • The project, Spatial Omics pathophysiology-based diagnosis of Parkinson's dementia and Lewy Body dementia, is awarded SEK 30 million in the Swedish Research Council's call "Interdisciplinary research environments".
  • The project will last 2022–2027 and is a collaboration between Per Andrén and Luke Odell, Uppsala University, Per Svenningsson, KI, Lukas Käll and Emma Lundberg, KTH, and Mats Nilsson, SU.