With more than 800k people in the UK and 5m in the USA currently living with dementia and suggestions that this figure is likely to rise considerably over the coming years; it is perhaps surprising to find that dementia research is massively under-funded.
Alzheimer's Research UK is the largest provider of dementia research in the United Kingdom. They fund research that could finally free the world of dementia. They are dedicated at supporting research aimed at diagnosing dementia as well as looking in to ways of preventing and treating the neurodegenerative disease.
Current investigations into problematic proteins involved with dementia and their responses with each other is a good example of this type of research. Alzheimer's is thought to be triggered by an accumulation of a certain protein in the brain, called amyloid. This protein can self-replicate and block certain pathways in the brain, leading to neurone dysfunction in the brain. Stopping or preventing the protein from inducing this process would be a big step forward in therapy for dementia and also Alzheimer's.
Funding for research into dementia needs to vastly improve if aims are to be met over the following years. Hope is that funding can support research into neurodegenerative diseases and also to help answer the call for research into risk factors that contribute to neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia. In addition to this, support is going to continue with supplying and also archiving brain tissue thus enabling the development of potential drug treatments for dementia and Alzheimer's.
Current Government action is also helping with the future of dementia research by contracting NHS services into recruiting dementia patients into clinical research studies.
It is very important to remember that Alzheimer's disease and dementia are different conditions. A lot more is known about what causes Alzheimer's disease and how it might be treated than what is known of the causes and treatments of dementia. But current clinical trials about drug treatments against Alzheimer's disease are giving researchers important clues and ideas into what can perhaps be done to prevent and treat dementia.
Global trials of certain drugs, like the drug Solanezumab, have only shown improvements in patients with very mild cases of dementia. However, this is not useless, it does show that if diagnosed early enough dementia can be slowed down significantly and also perhaps prevented altogether.
Austrian researchers have also perhaps discovered a natural remedy for dementia. They have found that a natural substance in body cells called spermidine can aid with memory loss problems which is a major concern for patients who suffer from dementia. The concentration of spermidine declines within the cells in our body as we get older. It helps breakdown any damaged cells and any defective proteins within the body. When specimens were given spermidine they had improved memory abilities. These ideas were tested on fruit flies and mice, and since these species have similar memory functions to humans, the results can hopefully be transferred and treat dementia in humans.