Where are we on research to enable us to combat dementia?

“Over recent decades we have begun to recognise dementia as a significant problem. Resultantly, we arefavouring a focus upon prevention rather than treatment.

The relative number of new cases is now in decline, with approximately 50 million people currently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Dementia. However, as our life spans are increasing, so too are the recorded number of dementia cases.

Our understanding of the disease has developed across time, allowing us to identify different types of dementia (such as Lewy Body Dementias or Vascular Dementia). Although, Alzheimer’s Dementia has taken the spotlight due to its higher frequency.

The latest consensus states that Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is identified by the lesions in the brain which can include neurofibrillary tangles, amyloid plaques and/or a loss of neurons.We used to only be ableto recognise these lesions post-mortem, meaning that until autopsy Alzheimer’s Dementia was called “possible Alzheimer’s Dementia”. However, we are now able to recognise these changes before death, either by imaging methods or by the levels of biomarkers (different substances related to the brain that can be measured in blood, urine and saliva).

Alzheimer’s Dementia is the clinical manifestation of the disease. With symptoms including a significantdecline in memory, concentration and orientation, etc.

For many years, we have tried to come across a treatment that would stop or reverse the evolution of the condition. Nevertheless, nearly all clinical trials for Alzheimer’s Dementia have failed and the few medications available tend to succeed in only treating some of the symptoms, rather than the disease itself. Due to the unique nature of the brain and its components, it is likely that our previous approach of targeting the symptoms to obtain a cure may not work with Alzheimer’s as it does with many other diseases.Taking a step back and looking at the disease before it materialises could be what we need, to identify those at risk of dementia and to prevent the negative consequences of this illness.

With the data collected by the CHARIOT PRO Sub Study we are hoping, along with other researchersworldwide, to improve the identification, characterisation and early treatment of dementia.”

A note by Dr Martin E. Cohn.

I am a member of the CHARIOT PRO Sub Study.


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