Receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or another dementia poses a plethora of questions, and Alzheimer’s Research UK is working tirelessly to fund research and work with people directly impacted to provide answers. Most importantly, finding a cure.
And in 2020, it’s never looked more positive.
The brain is the most important organ in our bodies; it helps us to complete daily tasks, think, act, live, and store all our memories.
However, one condition has the power to not only rob us of a lifetime of memories, but cause daily struggles in how we act, think, and live. For 850,000 people in the UK alone, dementia has affected their health and sense of self.
Behind the scenes, research labs and people with and without dementia are lending a hand to medical studies in a bid to help find a cure or preventative medication. One charity leading the way is Alzheimer’s Research UK.
“The starting question for a lot of our interactions is: What is the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia?” says Tim Parry, director
of communications and brand at Alzheimer’s Research UK.
“Dementia describes a broad set of cognitive symptoms, which can be recognised as memory loss, but we’re also talking about personality changes and navigation problems, extremes of mood and real difficulties carrying out tasks in everyday life. All those difficulties and symptoms are what dementia is, and it’s caused by different diseases.”
People who receive a diagnosis of dementia can have a variety of sub-illnesses that fall under the dementia umbrella.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most recognised form of dementia, but people can also be diagnosed with vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies or frontotemporal dementia. In fact, there are four common forms of dementia recognised.
Tim emphasises: “People may also underestimate what dementia is. It’s more than just forgetting where your keys are. Dementia is radically different to this; it’s not forgetting where your keys are, it’s forgetting what your keys are for.”
For the dedicated and experienced team working at Alzheimer’s Research UK, their goal is to continually find breakthroughs in medical advancements.
And, 2020 is set to be a prominent step in the right direction.
In December of last year, a potential new Alzheimer’s drug was presented at the Clinical Trials on Alzheimer’s Disease (CTAD) conference in San Diego. The drug, aducanumab, was presented by pharmaceutical company Biogen as they prepare for it to seek FDA approval – but it is not yet known if it will get approval.
Although aducanumab has ripples of positivity running through the world of dementia research, the importance of acting efficiently in terms of treatment is not lost.
Tim emphasises that early treatment is imperative, but symptoms of dementia typically unfold over several years, and further research is still required.
“Aducanumab, if it goes all the way, is a disease modifying drug which is what we’re looking at,” continues Tim.
“Current treatments are only symptomatic. For example, if you break your leg I can give you Ibuprofen for the pain, but it is the cast that will help heal your leg. That’s the part we just don’t have for any form of dementia at present; we can only help treat the pain, we can’t stop the physical process.
“My sense is that it would reignite our idea around this area and the next drug, and the one after, will take that idea and run with it making the next therapies even more effective,” adds Tim enthusiastically. The sense of positivity is ever present, but research is still necessary.
Working as a dementia research charity, Alzheimer’s Research UK does have a service for people directly affected by dementia. The Dementia Research Infoline can provide answers to general questions, updates on research taking place, and how you, too, can get involved in clinical trials.
Tim explains: “One important aspect of clinical studies is that: yes, we need people with dementia to take part in the studies, but we also need control participants.” Within research and studies, experiments look at how the brain changes during dementia and how it changes for someone without the disease.
“We often see couples getting involved, where one has dementia and their partner doesn’t,” says Tim. “I think this also gives people back a sense of control after what can be, obviously, a difficult diagnosis.”
Taking back control whilst in the knowledge that being involved with research will help others in the future, is a powerful reason to get involved. Yes, it is an exciting time for dementia research, but there are still questions that need to be answered.
From hopes of blood-based biomarkers set to come through in the following years, further research into new treatments, to the recognition of public health and lifestyle impacts on our health: 2020 could be the biggest year for dementia research to date.
“The field is more optimistic than ever,” enthuses Tim. “That really does stand up for 2020 and beyond. We are actively talking about a therapy that could find its way to people and if that comes through it sets the oath for better ones to follow up.
“The importance of people being a part of the process that could lead to those outcomes has never been more important, raise your hand and get involved. They’re fascinating anyway and it’s great to feel part of something greater that is helping everyone who is affected by this disease in the future.”
Stay updated with the continued research underway at Alzheimer’s Research UK, and get further advice from the Dementia Research Infoline on, 0300 111 5 111.