Carrickfergus man's role in groundbreaking Alzheimer's research

Dr Michael O'Hare.
Dr Michael O'Hare.

A former Carrickfergus resident is part of a team of US-based academics at the forefront of a breakthrough in Alzheimer's research.

Michael O'Hare is currently a post-doctoral research fellow at the world-renowned Harvard University.

The 26-year-old is a former student of Carrickfergus College and Belfast High School.

Michael received a Masters degree in Biomedical Sciences at Ulster University's Coleraine campus, during which he carried out a one year internship at Indiana University.

This was followed by a PhD focusing on Diabetic Retinopathy at Queen's University Belfast.

His impressive scientific credentials led to him being headhunted by a professor at Harvard while taking part in an ophthalmic conference in Hawaii.

The local man has been based since last November at the prestigious Boston institution.

Earlier this month, Michael and a number of colleagues published a paper outlining a groundbreaking development in Alzheimer’s research.

The document details one woman's resistance to the devastating effects of Alzheimer's. "This case report identified a Colombian woman who was predicted to develop Alzheimer’s disease by 50 due to a mutation in a gene called Presenilin 1, that causes an early onset form of Alzheimer’s Disease," Michael explained.

"Intriguingly, she experienced no cognitive decline until her 70s, nearly three decades after the expected onset, displaying a remarkable resistance to Alzheimer’s disease.

"The Colombian woman has two copies of APOE3, the variant which most people are born with; however, both of these copies have an extremely rare mutation called Christchurch (named after the city in New Zealand where it was first reported)."

Dr O’Hare, who was a co-first author in the study, was involved in undertaking biochemical experiments aiming to determine how the Christchurch mutation alters the function of APOE.

It is hoped the research will lead to a better understanding of how this mutation may lead to resistance to Alzheimer’s disease.

Currently, more than 520,000 people in the UK have dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer's Society.