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Centre for Misfolding Diseases

Research

Our research at the Centre for Misfolding Diseases (CMD) concerns the molecular origins of the family of human disorders that includes Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and type-II diabetes, which are the most rapidly rising cause of illness and death in the developed world. Protein misfolding diseases are directly linked to longevity and lifestyle: if no treatments are found, the number of cases is predicted to treble by 2050, with crippling impacts on our society and economy.

The CMD interdisciplinary research team is led by Prof. Christopher M. Dobson, Prof. Michele Vendruscolo and Prof. Tuomas P. J. Knowles. Together with their collaborators, they have undertaken a long-term research programme aimed at elucidating the molecular causes of protein misfolding and aggregation, and at discovering therapeutic strategies for combating the family of disorders with which this phenomenon is connected.

Over the last two years, this team and their collaborators have been able to determine in detail the pathways that generate the aberrant forms of the Aβ peptide and of α-synuclein, the two molecules believed to be the primary cause of, respectively, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. These breakthroughs represent vital advances in the field and will undoubtedly lead to earlier diagnosis, and open up possibilities for a new generation of targeted drugs. The approach pioneered at the CMD integrates a quantitative understanding of the molecular mechanisms of protein misfolding diseases with the expertise of its industrial partners in drug discovery. This strategy has already resulted in 8 patents and in the discovery of a range of small molecules capable of interacting with misfolded proteins within the cell, thereby preventing toxicity.