A PEEBLES scientist says he is “absolutely thrilled” after being named the winner of a prestigious prize.

Dr Mathew Horrocks was given the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Joseph Black Award in recognition of his work on neurodegenerative diseases.

The University of Edinburgh-based scientist, from Peebles, also received £3,000 and a medal.

Dr Horrocks said: “I am absolutely thrilled to have received the Joseph Black Award. It’s a huge honour to have my work and that of my research group recognised.”

Sixty past winners of the accolade have gone on to claim Nobel Prizes for their work.

The Peeblian won the prize for the “development and application of single-molecule and super-resolution microscopy approaches to understand how proteins aggregate in neurodegenerative diseases”.

Among the most common neurodegenerative disorders – which affect around 850,000 people in the UK – are Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

With an ageing population, the number affected is expected to rise to one million by 2025.

Both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s can only be diagnosed clinically based on patient symptoms, with confirmation post mortem.

There are currently no suitable ‘biomarkers’, which would allow the diseases to be identified at an earlier stage.

By the time the symptoms become evident, much of the damage in the brain has occurred, and this is currently irreversible.

In both diseases, small protein clumps – called oligomers – form in the brain and are difficult to study due to their structure and size.

Dr Horrocks has spent his research career developing powerful microscopy methods to see and characterise these disease-causing agents.

This research is increasing our understanding of how oligomers are formed, how they cause damage, and how cells respond to prevent damage.

The Royal Society of Chemistry’s chief executive, Dr Helen Pain, said: “Great science changes the way we think about things – either through the techniques used, the findings themselves, the products that emerge or even in how we interact with the world and those around us. Importantly, it also allows us to reflect on the incredible people involved in this work and how they have achieved their results.

“Although we are in the midst of negotiating a particularly turbulent and challenging era, it is important to celebrate successes and advances in understanding as genuine opportunities to improve our lives.

“The work of Dr Horrocks is a fantastic example of why we celebrate great science, and we’re very proud to recognise their contribution today.”

The Royal Society of Chemistry has recognised excellence in chemical sciences for more than 150 years.

Its portfolio is one of the oldest and most prestigious in the world, recognising achievements by individuals, teams and organisations.