Making my dad proud by Heledd

Right now, 850,000 people are living with dementia in the UK. By 2050, that number is set to increase by 116%. Dr Heledd Jarosz-Griffiths is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the University’s world-leading area of dementia research.

Heledd and her late father

Heledd’s story

I know about dementia and what it means. I lived under its control for almost seven years after my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia stripped him of his memory, personality and his dignity, leaving a shell of the amazing man he used to be.

I was in the first year of my PhD when he died. Did I really want to dissect and analyse a disease that destroyed someone I loved so much?

I was so angry with dementia, it made me feel weak and helpless. I just wanted to bury my head in the sand. But I decided to face my fears and fight back. I'm now a scientist working on Alzheimer’s disease at The University of Manchester.

A lifelong interest

I’ve always been passionate about science. Following a degree in biochemistry I realised that my main interests were in cell biology, with a particular focus on what happens to cells in disease. I knew I wanted to be in the lab, learning new techniques and making my own discoveries. Carrying out a PhD was the perfect opportunity to learn and develop as a scientist. The area of research that really stood out to me at the time was Alzheimer’s disease.

The power of research

To be successful in our research, we often compare the biochemical changes that occur in healthy cells or brain tissue to diseased tissue, so that we can identify the key changes and triggers.

Recent developments mean we can now grow stem cells into brain cells in our laboratory. These cells repeat the physiological processes involved in the development of dementia. This kind of technology is going to revolutionise our research. 

Research doesn’t come cheap, and the support we receive through donations, is making a huge difference to our mission to beat dementia. I try to use my experience in a positive way. Losing my dad to dementia motivates me to do my utmost to find better treatments so others don't have to go through what I did.