Toby Aarons

Title: Investigating extracellular vesicle miRNA as a biomarker for Alzheimer's disease

PhD summary

The brain is made up of cells, called neurons, that transmit information in signals to the rest of the brain and the body. These signals are essential for almost everything from thinking to movement. Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, are associated with changes to the brain that go beyond what is seen in normal ageing. These changes include the build-up of abnormal protein that accumulate in and around neurons, as well as the progressive damage of these neurons. These changes result in the symptoms of dementia, including memory loss and behavioural changes.

The changes observed in the brains of patients with neurodegenerative diseases occur in a progressive manner, as damage usually occurs in the areas of the brain responsible for memory, with other areas of the brains affected after. This suggests that the abnormal protein and damage is spreading between neurons. The mechanisms that neurons use to maintain their health include the release of small vehicles that contain different biological molecules. These vehicles can then be picked up by other neurons that may use the cargo being carried. In Alzheimer’s disease, neurons that are being stressed by the conditions of the disease release vehicles that contain different cargo to what they would if they were healthy.

We aim to measure how the cargo in these vehicles changes in Alzheimer’s disease, and determine whether these changes can be used as biomarkers of the early changes of the disease. We hope that this can improve diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.


September 2018 - September 2022


Doctoral Training Alliance

Institution name

University of Salford


  • Dr Gemma Lace
  • Dr Arjit Mukahopadhyay

Discipline area

Cell and molecular biology, genetics, neuroscience.

Short biography 

I am currently a second year PhD student at the University of Salford, who is interested in how neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, spread through the brain. Prior to this I completed my bachelor’s degree in biomedical science and my masters by research at Manchester Metropolitan University. During this time, I investigated the changes in epigenetic regulation of brain derived neurotrophic factor with healthy ageing, and how this regulation changed in Alzheimer’s disease. After this I worked as a research assistant for a year at The University of Manchester, where I worked on behavioural models of affective disorders, such as schizophrenia and ADHD.

I like to take part in research initiatives beyond the lab, such as getting involved in public engagement events and early career researcher networks, for example, I am currently one of the ARUK North West network early career representatives.

Beyond research, I enjoy playing basketball and football, travelling when I have the opportunity, and going for food/drink with friends. 

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