De­feat­ing de­men­tia: the year ahead

Dr Eric Kar­ran re­ports on progress and chal­lenges in the fight against a dev­as­tat­ing con­di­tion

The Jewish Chronicle - JC Magazine - - Alzheimer’s Research Uk -

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

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