Meet the Scientist -Oliver Cousins (KCL)
Dr Oliver Cousins
Clinical Research Fellow
Neurodegeneration Imaging Group
Maurice Wohl Clinical Neuroscience Institute
Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN)
King’s College London
Can you explain your research within PHAGO in 2 sentences?
I am aiming to explore the role of the immune system in Alzheimer’s disease by using a special type of brain scan, called a PET scan, to investigate the activation of brain immune cells (microglia) in people with and without memory problems, and in people with and without certain genes relating to the immune system (TREM2). I am also looking at the interactions of the immune cells with the abnormal proteins found in Alzheimer’s disease (Tau and Amyloid)
What do your friends and family think what you are doing in the lab?
I believe they think that I am performing brain scans on a daily basis
What are you really doing? (What’s your favourite task to do in the lab?)
Whilst I am occasionally preforming brain scans, the clinical assessments and participant recruitment takes a large proportion of my time. I enjoy the problem solving aspects of research, as I may be trying out a process that has not been performed before.
Why are you interested in Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating condition that can ruin the lives of sufferers and their families (and I have had personal experience of such). Also, with the ageing population the costs to the health services will be crippling, particularly given the lack of therapies that can improve the clinical course of the disease.
What is the major challenge in Alzheimer research for you?
The disease processes are likely to start many years before symptom onset meaning that any future treatments are likely to need to take place early. However, being able to detect who may benefit, at this early stage, is especially challenging.
Trem2 or CD33?
Trem2 for me
Coffee or Tea?
Definitely tea. An important part of my British heritage.
Why does your research matter to the average citizen/man on the street?
We need to know how Alzheimer’s disease happens, otherwise any chance of a cure is very unlikely. Therefore, looking at a new angle to the disease, in our case the immune system, will help to solve the puzzle that are the processes underlying the disease.
The must-follow science twitter account?
I don’t use twitter…
The must-read article on Alzheimer research?
The original:- ‘TREM2 variants in Alzheimer's disease.’ (N Engl J Med. 2013 Jan 10;368(2):117-27.)
What else do you like to read (except research articles)?
I am working my way through the classics at the moment. I’ve just finished Lord of the Flies.
Your most surprising research finding?
This is my first real research project! Previously I was practicing clinical medicine, before taking this time out for research.
What is your personal highlight in PHAGO up to now?
I am working with a very rare group of people with very specific genes. The challenge of recruiting and building a relationship with such people (especially as the study has quite a few visits) has been a great experience for me.
What’s your favourite thing to do outside the lab?
I have a little baby boy and spending time with him, for example a recent trip to the seaside, is truly wonderful.
Best recent TV series/movie/novel depicting scientists?
A bit off the Alzheimer’s topic but I really enjoyed the film “the Martian.” Good to see science in practice.