As a specialist funder of research into the mechanisms of ageing and treating age-related diseases and frailty, dementia is a key area for us, here at the Dunhill Medical Trust. In 2017 alone, over a quarter of the project-related funding we provided was for dementia-related projects encompassing new work investigating the causes, new approaches to caring for those living with dementia, as well as looking for cures.
Here are just a few examples of the work of our researchers…
Professor Crutch and his team at University College London have developed an app, Read-Clear, to facilitate reading for people living with posterior cortical atrophy (PCA), a degenerative dementia that affects visual function, resulting in reading impairment, which can dramatically affect the quality of life and independence of people with PCA. The app runs on Android devices and allows users to stream content, such as a selected number of books and news. It is freely available in English, Spanish and French in the Google Play Store and is greatly improving the quality of life for people with this debilitating condition.
Another team at the University College London, this time led by Professor Henry Houlden, are focusing on the relationship between spontaneous intracranial haemorrhage (ICH), a form of stroke, and dementia, as it has been found that survivors of ICH have a higher rate of developing dementia. In order to understand the link, the team have collected clinical, imaging and DNA data on over 1,000 UK-based ICH patients. The team are investigating known genetic risk-factors for dementia and vascular disease and are conducting a pilot genome-wide association study for novel common variants, combined with exome sequencing of familial ICH to identify overlapping variants.
In 2016 the Trust contributed to the purchase of a new, state of-the-art, brain research dedicated magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner at the University of Edinburgh. Advanced MRI scanning is an essential clinical research tool for advancing treatments of dementia. One treatment area this scanner will be used for is cerebral microvascular disease, which causes up to 45% of dementias. There are currently very few treatments for dementia and this piece of equipment is crucial to investigating new cures.
Figure 1. The ‘wiring’ in the brain. The first tractography image obtained on the new 3T MRI scanner showing the white matter connections in the brain and the main memory storage areas (hippocampus, red lobules, on the underside of the brain).