Addenbrooke's Charitable Trust

Recently funded research

Below is just a sample of some of the research projects we have funded recently, thanks to the generosity of our supporters. A full list of projects funded in 2016 can be found here.

Reducing the risk of transplant rejection 

Background: Kidney transplant is the best treatment for patients with end-stage renal failure.  Although early results after transplantation are excellent, long-term outcomes can be compromised due to a process called ‘chronic rejection’ which occurs mainly due to development of antibodies against the donor organ.

The application: The Cambridge transplant programme has a long history of innovation, both technical and immunological and researchers applied to ACT to fund research to improve understanding of how donor-specific antibodies mediate graft rejection.  

They aim to examine how antibodies bind to and damage donor tissue.  They also want to establish a new method for detecting those antibodies in a patient’s serum that are most likely to be harmful.  This will enable better assessment of the immunological risk associated with a particular transplant and more efficient immunity monitoring following a transplant, so early problems can be spotted before the transplant is irretrievably rejected.

Research title: Investigation of the molecular basis of alloantibody-HLA interactions and detection of clinically relevant HLAspecific antibodies to determine immunological risk in kidney transplantation.

Comment from the committee: “This is a sound proposal from an investigator with a strong track record”.

Applicant: Vasilis Kosmoliaptsis

Amount awarded: £34,318 from ACT’s transplant research fund to cover the study’s first year.

Understanding road traffic accidents 

Background: There were 2,049 reported injury collisions in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough in 2014, resulting in 2,725 casualties.  Almost 400 people were killed or seriously injured.

The East of England Major Trauma Centre at Addenbrooke’s is a key part of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Road Safely Partnership. The Partnership’s vision is to prevent all road deaths across the region and significantly reduce the severity of injuries, subsequent cost and social impact arising from road traffic accidents. 

Application: Following a recent successful funding application, £100,000 has been awarded to ACT from the Road Safety Trust for a new three-year post-graduate research project - Targeting Road Injury Prevention (TRIP). 

ACT will be working with the Partnership to look in detail at crashes that cause severe injury and death, in particular examining the types of drivers involved. This innovative project brings together partners from the local authority, emergency services, Addenbrooke’s and Loughborough University to explore whether prevention strategies targeted at groups of drivers similar to those considered culpable for crashes, rather than targeting groups who are likely to be injured, have an impact on road safety.

Comment from Sandra Myers, ACT’s Interim Chief Executive: “We are always keen to take part in partnership working, of which this is an excellent example.”

Testing for and monitoring glaucoma

Background: Glaucoma is one of the most common causes of irreversible blindness associated with loss of visual field.  Visual field testing is very important, both for detecting glaucoma and in monitoring treatment.  Current machines for visual field testing are large, space-occupying and expensive.

The application: There is potential to use portable tablets with high quality screens for visual field testing that could have considerable time and cost savings for the hospital. Dr Kong has developed user-friendly visual testing software called Melbourne Rapid Fields and found, from testing in Nepal and Melbourne (Australia), that the software is able to detect visual field problems in glaucoma patients, with good accuracy. However, data on whether it is able to detect change is still lacking, which is crucial for monitoring the disease.  

With funding from ACT, Dr Kong is conducting a research project to examine if the app is able to monitor visual field change in the clinic. He plans to recruit 40 patients and compare results against more traditional testing methods.

Comment from the committee: "There appears to be potential for transfer and adoption of the knowledge gained from this clinical research to the wider NHS and indeed to other regions of the world.” 

Research title: Validation of a software on iPad for monitoring visual field changes in the clinic

Applicants: Dr Yu Xiang Kong

Amount awarded: £10,790 from ACT's Cambridge Eye Unit Fund

Investigating the role of hydration in treating acute stroke patients

Dehydration can lead to a poorer outcome for stroke patients.  But assessing dehydration is difficult as there are changes to our body as we age, and also differences in base line readings between people.

The current evidence from observational trials found an association between early dehydration, longer stays in hospital and a poorer recovery.   However, at present, there are no specific national guidelines on how much fluid these vulnerable patients need. 

The application: The researcher will be investigating whether staff are correctly identifying dehydration in acute stroke patients and, using appropriate biomarkers to guide re-hydration, whether this improves patients’ recovery.

Comment from the committee: “We are keen to encourage fellowship applications like this from nurses, midwives and allied health professionals.” 

Research title: Fluid in stroke: a hyperacute evaluation study study

Applicant: Diana Day 

Amount awarded: £37,500, half from ACT’s unrestricted research fund and half from the Biomedical Research Centre

Growing human pain neurons

Background: Looking at rare individuals who have never felt pain, the clinical pain team at Addenbrooke's is examining how pain neurons develop and what happens when they malfunction.

The team has already found mutations in some genes indicating that these neurons do not respond to stimuli that would normally hurt.  However, they don't know why this occurs. Greater understanding is being hampered by the fact that pain neurons are highly specialised cells which cannot be extracted from humans for study and are difficult to grow in culture.

A new technology has now emerged where stems cells, extracted from blood or skin samples, can be induced to become pain neurons.

The application: We have funded a pilot research study in which the team will establish how to obtain stem cells from individuals and grow nerve cells in culture in the laboratory. This will form the ground work that will allow the team to develop the research further and examine how genetic changes cause abnormal pain states.

Comment from the committee: "The researchers will be using the learning from this study to develop new approaches to pain treatment and new analgesics for pain relief.” 

Research title: To grow human pain neurons for investigating clinical pain states

Applicants: Professor Woods and Professor Menon

Amount awarded: £20,000 from ACT's unrestricted research funds 

Measuring Alzheimer’s disease in people with Down’s syndrome
Background: People with Down’s syndrome are at very high risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, and do so at younger ages, compared to the general population. EEG (a technology which records brain activity through electrodes placed on the scalp) may have a role to play in screening this ‘at risk’ population.

The research: The aim of this study is to investigate whether EEG, which is entirely safe, relatively cheap and undemanding for participants, has the potential to both measure the effects of aging on the brain and indicate early stages of Alzheimer’s in people with Down’s syndrome.

Comment from the committee: “This is a worthwhile and well designed study.”

Research title: EEG measures of aging and Alzheimer’s disease in Down’s Syndrome 

Grant applicants: Sally Jennings, Howard Ring and Anthony Holland

Amount awarded: £10,000 from ACT’s general medical research funds 

Treating cervical cancers

Background: Large cervix cancers are potentially curable using external pelvic radiotherapy, followed by internal radiotherapy to the cervix (brachytherapy). The aim of this treatment is to eradicate the cancer, while minimising long-term side effects to the bowel and bladder. Older brachytherapy methods could not identify pelvic organs and/or cancer clearly, but this is now possible with a new method of image-guided brachytherapy (IGBT).

One hospital, which has already trialed IGBT, reported a 20 per cent improvement in eradicating the cancer and a 10 per cent reduction in side effects, compared with older brachytherapy methods. Not all patients benefited from the treatment, however.

The research: This study will look at uncertainties with IGBT that could account for variations in outcomes and establish ways of limiting these for future treatment. These results could help form new national and international guidelines for IBGT.

Comment from the committee: “This is a very worthwhile study and we are impressed with the applicants’ achievements to date with other sources of funding”.

Research title: Factors affecting variation in brachytherapy planning in the treatment of cervical carcinoma 

Grant applicants: Vivien Tse and Li Tee Tan

Amount awarded: £15,235 from ACT’s cancer research fund 

Investigating balance

Background: Patients who have a tumour in the nerve of balance in their inner ear, often need to have it removed, leaving their sense of balance and equilibrium impaired.

The research: With this study, researchers will investigate the optimal way of implanting a prosthetic device into the inner ear (vestibular implants) of patients who have lost balance function. Good positioning of the implant is important for it to work well and is currently performed with the patient under general anaesthetic, using eye movements  evoked by a small electrical impulse applied to the inner ear as a guide. This new research will better understand the relationship between stimulation of the inner ear, eye movements and the activity of the balance nerve itself with the aim of optimising the positioning of the implant.

Comment from the grants committee: “We are supportive of this proof of principle study which would advance knowledge and improve patient outcomes. Research title: Fundamental investigation of vestibular function – is it possible to measure intraoperative electrically evoked vestibular function?

Grant applicants: James Johnston, Neil Donnelly, James Tysome and Dr Richard Knight.

Amount awarded: £4,800 from ACT’s unrestricted funds.


  • A full list of projects funded in 2016 can be found here.
  • More about the patient support projects we fund can be found on our recently funded projects pages.
  • Our Grants Bulletin reviews the initiatives that are awarded charitable funding each quarter. If you would like to know more about any of these projects, then please do contact the office.  Similarly, if you would like to make a donation so we can continue to make a real contribution to important research, then visit our make a donation page.  Thank you so much.