Professor Maria G. Spillantini
Professor Spillantini has been researching the cause of dementia for almost 30 years and is currently based at the University of Cambridge as part of the Department of Clinical Neurosciences. She has published her findings in internationally renowned journals like Nature and regularly speaks at meetings and conferences around the world.
The Spillantini lab is currently researching the cause of diseases like Parkinson’s and Frontotemporal dementia, as well as Alzheimer’s disease. These diseases give rise to different forms of dementia, or movement disorders, which would be diagnosed by specialists doctors by taking detailed history and memory tests like the Addenbrook’s scale or the mini mental state exam. Changes in the cells that make up the brain and the protein-machinery they use cause the signs and symptoms seen by the doctor. What changes occur, and in which region of the brain, decide what disease a person will be diagnosed with. If we wish to design a preventative treatment or cure, we must understand the nature of these changes and their consequences in the brain. To do this, members of the lab investigate the cells and protein-machinery that make up the brain; neurons, astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and microglia.
The lab uses cells grown in a dish from stem cells donated from patients with disease or healthy people and whole brains donated by healthy people or patients who have died with the disease. Professor Spillantini is head of the Cambridge Brain Bank, which is always interested in donations from the community, and works closely with the Stem Cell Institute, which also takes donations but in the form of skin cells.