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New centre to aid dementia research

People living with dementia and their families are set to benefit from a new centre aimed at tackling the onset of the condition.

The facility will identify risk factors linked to the disease and deliver potential treatments to halt its progression.

A major focus of basic science is to unlock the early events of dementia and through that understanding find approaches preventing the onset of dementia

Prof Jean MansonChair of Neurodegenerative Disease

The Centre for Dementia Prevention will bring together specialists from the fields of medicine, basic science and the social sciences.

It will be led by Professors Craig Ritchie, Charlotte Clarke and Jean Manson.

The team aims to:

  • Advance understanding of the basic biology of neurodegeneration
  • Support global efforts to deliver new medicines that could act before clinical symptoms of dementia appear
  • Improve the experiences of living with dementia by developing and implementing strategies that increase quality of life and prevent unnecessary detrimental consequences

The experience of dementia is profoundly influenced by how others in society regard someone with dementia, and the Centre for Dementia Prevention will research ways in which the stigma and therapeutic pessimism of dementia is challenged.”

Professor Charlotte ClarkeChair of Health in Social Science

Prevention is key

The Centre’s PREVENT study, will pinpoint risk factors in middle-aged people, and highlight how these can be helped by early intervention.

The joint study, with researchers at Imperial College London, will establish a cohort of individuals aged 40-59. The group will enable researchers to explore differences in the brain and cognitive function in middle age.

Volunteers will be grouped into high, mid and low risk categories based on their family history and genetic profiles.

The study will seek to identify early signs of changes in the brain while people are still in good health.

Researchers will analyse biological indicators such as markers in blood and saliva and use direct imaging of the brain's structure and function.

They will track how changes in all of these markers develop over time and help to identify other risks that predict these changes.

Historically, we always looked at dementia as being a disease of later life. We are now realising that dementia has its genesis in midlife at least or perhaps even earlier.

Professor Craig RitchieProfessor of the Psychiatry of Ageing

Identifying new treatments

Professor Ritchie also leads the European Prevention of Alzheimer’s Dementia (EPAD) Consortium.

It is a £50m international research platform to test new medicines that might help people at high risk of developing dementia.

Studies have shown that biological signs of Alzheimer’s disease can be present in the brain decades before the first symptoms of dementia appear.

EPAD aims to investigate the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

It will invite those at highest risk to participate in clinical trials to identify new treatments.

Urgent need

Dementia is a condition that affects around 800,000 people in the UK.

The latest WHO analysis estimates that around 47.5 million people currently live with dementia worldwide.

That figure is set to triple by 2050.