Assistant Professor vid Göteborgs universitet
Nicholas Ashton, assitant professor vid Göteborgs universitet, tilldelas ”Drottning Silvias pris till en ung alzheimerforskare”. I september 2021 fick han ta emot det prestigefulla priset på 125 000 kronor.
What originally made you interested in Alzheimer’s disease research?
I did not have a personal experience behind my initial introduction into Alzheimer’s disease research – an enthusiastic mentor who created a vibrant learning atmosphere ignited my early interest. However, after working in this field for a little over 10 years, I can now convey several hundred stories of how this disease has devastated people lives. I firmly believe that we have the means to stop Alzheimer’s disease, but the task is to diagnose people correctly and early enough before the disease takes control. The challenge presented to me and the team in recent years is “diagnose Alzheimer disease in the simplest way possible; without touching, sampling or looking at the brain” – a challenge we are close to completing.
What is the aim of your research?
The aim of my research is to provide clinicians, researchers and those testing disease-modifying drugs with an easy, widely accessible and cost-effective diagnostic test for Alzheimer’s disease. A major challenge is knowing if dementia symptoms are caused by Alzheimer’s disease or something entirely different. Knowing this is vitally important. Firstly, to provide patients and carers with a more definitive diagnosis. Secondly, to better facilitate the accurate inclusion of patients into drug trials and research that focuses on developing cures for Alzheimer’s disease.
We have made considerable progress in doing this with blood tests. Firstly with Neurofilament light (NfL) and more recently with phosphorylated tau (p-tau). Now, we are very close to having this Alzheimer’s test widely available.
The blood tests also opens up new and highly important avenues – which more invasive and costly testing (lumbar puncture and molecular imaging) cannot do. We can be more inclusive in our studies and represent more diverse populations in our investigations. In addition, we can examine Alzheimer’s disease at a very earliest stage to investigate preventative measures even before symptoms occur.
What does this award from Alzheimerfonden mean for your research?
It is a tremendous honour to receive this award and it is recognition of hard work from a large team that have developed these new blood tests.
We now know that we can detect Alzheimer’s disease in the blood, this gives us great confidence that we can develop similar tests for other types of dementia (e.g., Lewy Body Dementia, Vascular dementia) that are greatly needed. This funding, together with our previous experience and rapidly advancing technology, will accelerate this process.