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Using Nature's Toolkit to Treat the “House on Fire” Disease: Alzheimer's

Kilian Kleemann

Molecular and Cellular Biology


Year of study:



Long-term trends predict an ageing world population. On average we survive longer due to improvements in cancer, cardiovascular and infectious disease treatments. Neurodegeneration, generally described as dementia, is projected to become more prevalent. Alzheimer as most common neurodegenerative disease remains far from being effectively treatable and many promising drugs recently failed. Memory loss is the main symptom, but only shows late into the progression of Alzheimer. Symptoms are like a fire that is uncontrollable once it starts to become visible from the outside of the house. The aim is to find the spark early and eliminate it. New approaches are gaining momentum, one of which is regulating the function of immune cells called microglia, which are only present in the brain. Microglia not only fend off invasive microorganisms, but also contribute significantly to the regulation of the brain by continuously monitoring the health of brain cells called neurons. My research involved efforts to detect Alzheimer better and studying specific receptors present on the cell surface of microglia. How do these receptors pass on communication signals between microglia and neurons? Understanding precisely how microglia communicate with neurons is of major interest. If we can detect Alzheimer early, the idea is to guide the microglia to find and eliminate the spark early on, to stop the outbreak of an uncontrollable fire. Almost like providing the fire-fighters (microglia) with a better warning equipment. Directing the function of microglia can hold incredible potential for treatment of Alzheimer, however we are still at the beginning to elucidate the complexity of different spreading methods of the spark and the different “house” types which respond differently to sparks.


Kilian Kleemann is currently studying Biomolecular and cellular mechanisms. His recent engagements in research include investigating molecular detection methods for better Alzheimer diagnosis and presenting results at the YLS 2018 Conference. Last summer he worked on key signalling in brain immune cells. His Glasgow community involvement include working as bike mechanic to promote sustainable transport. Currently as Head of Design for the Glasgow Science Magazine (GIST) he enjoys the creative balance and loves to share a passion for gymnastics.

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