Researchers at the University of Southampton believe they have discovered a new way to help halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease
By Adam Shaw
A study conducted with mice found that inflammation in the brain can drive the development of the disease.
The researchers hope this evidence will lead to an effective new treatment for the condition, for which there is currently no cure.
It was originally thought that Alzheimer’s disturbs the brain’s immune system, leading to memory loss. But this research, which was jointly funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Alzheimer’s Research UK, opens new doors into the study of the disease.
By blocking the action of a protein, the research team were able to reduce the lasting, harmful effects of brain inflammation. This improved the cognitive skills of treated mice, as they demonstrated fewer memory and behavioural problems when compared with untreated ones.
Dr Diego Gomez-Nicola, lead author of the study, said: “These findings are as close to evidence as we can get to show that this particular pathway is active in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
“The next step is to work closely with our partners in industry to find a safe and suitable drug that can be tested to see if it works in humans.”
Dr Rob Buckle, director of science programmes at the MRC, highlighted the importance of all research into dementia and the positive results it can lead to. Dr Gomez-Nicola and his team will continue their work at the University of Southampton with funding from the Dementia Consortium.
Facts about Alzheimer’s and Dementia
In the UK
• By 2015 there will be 850,000 people with dementia in the UK.
• There are 40,000 younger people with dementia in the UK.
• There are 25,000 people with dementia from black and minority ethnic groups in the UK.
• There will be 1 million people with dementia in the UK by 2025.
• Two thirds of people with dementia are women.
• The proportion of people with dementia doubles for every fiveyear age group.
• One in six people aged 80 and over have dementia.
• 60,000 deaths a year are directly attributable to dementia.
• Delaying the onset of dementia by five years would reduce deaths directly attributable to dementia by 30,000 a year.
• The financial cost of dementia to the UK is £26 billion per annum.
• There are 670,000 carers of people with dementia in the UK.
• Family carers of people with dementia save the UK £11 billion a year.
• 80 per cent of people living in care homes have a form of dementia or severe memory problems.
• Two thirds of people with dementia live in the community while one third live in a care home.
• Only 44 per cent of people with dementia in England, Wales and Northern Ireland actually get a diagnosis
• Currently there are almost 48,000 people living with dementia in Ireland; 17,385 men and 30,359 women
• 4,000 of these people are under 65 and are classified as having younger onset dementia
• It is estimated that the number of people living with dementia will rise to 153,157 by 2046 due to population ageing
• Approximately 4,000 cases of dementia are identified in Ireland each year
• There are approximately 50,000 family carers caring for someone with dementia
• For each person diagnosed with dementia there at least three family members directly affected