Defeating dementia: the year ahead
Dr Eric Karran reports on progress and challenges in the fight against a devastating condition
EVERY SEVEN seconds, someone in the world develops dementia. While this striking statistic illustrates the growing burden of dementia, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Behind every number is a person and behind every person is a family struggling to cope.
Diseases that cause dementia have a devastating effect on individuals and families across the globe. Many of our supporters tell us that when their husband or wife stops recognising them — a heartbreakingly common sideeffect in diseases like Alzheimer’s — they grieve for their loved one while they are still alive.
Research into dementia has been hampered by stigma and lack of investment, with scientists working to unravel the disease struggling to find the funds to continue.
As the UK’s leading dementia research charity, Alzheimer’s Research UK aims to redress this balance. By funding world-class research to prevent, treat and cure dementia, it provides scientists with the resources they need to find answers.
Last year, thanks to the generosity of its supporters, the charity made huge progress. Researchers in London discovered a new gene linked to a three-fold increase of developing Alzheimer’s — providing vital clues to the mechanics of the disease.
Alzheimer’s Research UK announced its largest-ever investment in research, bringing its current research commitment to more than £20 million and provided free information about dementia to more people than ever before.
The charity’s lobbying of government for fairer research funding also reaped rewards, with the Prime Minister pledging to increase funding over the coming years.
So as we look back on 2012 with pride, we can also look towards 2013 with a sense of optimism. New projects are getting under way to investigate the causes and risk factors of diseases like Alzheimer’s and frontotemporal dementia, as well as improving methods of diagnosis.
Several late-stage clinical trials will also get under way to test drugs aimed at slowing Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s Research UK has developed a pioneering new research strategy and will continue to forge partnerships with government, industry and other charities, to ensure that research is streamlined, coordinated and most likely to provide benefit to those affected.
While there are many reasons to be hopeful, there is still a long way to go.
Despite the government’s announcement of increased funding for dementia research, there is still huge ground to be made up. Last year Alzheimer’s Research UK funded more dementia research than any other charity in the country, but there is still so much more it could do. With limited options for funding, scientists across the UK risk losing the funds they need to continue their vital work.
Its emergency funding scheme is particularly important, allowing scientists to bridge the gap when their grants run dry. To ensure that promising findings are not shelved, we must continue to raise awareness and funds for this growing health crisis. With 35 million people across the world living with dementia, and this figure rising, dementia is an issue that none of us can afford to ignore.
Dr Karran: there is hope, if we can bridge the funding gap