The role of inflammation in dementia – learning lessons from hip fracture patients.

There is growing evidence that inflammation in the brain can accelerate dementia but few research studies have explored this observation in people. This ambitious project will investigate whether the inflammation triggered by a hip fracture could worsen dementia.

Researching

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This important study will look at inflammation caused by hip fractures in people with dementia. The aim of the project is to investigate whether people with dementia who experience inflammation caused by a hip fracture, also have a faster decline in memory and thinking. The expert team will analyse blood and spinal fluid from these patients, aiming to find  inflammatory molecules that could be contributing to damage This information could reveal targets for future medicines that help people with dementia have a better quality of life, for longer.

Inflammation is a natural process that kicks into action in the body when it experiences damage or infection. It’s a defence mechanism – orchestrated by immune cells that rally into action to keep us healthy. However, there is growing evidence linking the immune system to diseases like Alzheimer’s. Between 2009 and 2014 our funding helped in the discovery of over 20 risk genes for Alzheimer’s, many of which were found to play a role in controlling inflammation. As the focus draws in on the immune system in Alzheimer’s, researchers are trying to work out what could trigger inflammation in the brain in people with dementia and how this might contribute to the progression of their disease. This knowledge will arm researchers will the ability to develop interventions or approaches to reduce the risk of brain inflammation in people with dementia, as well as identifying key molecules involved in the process that could be targeted in the search for new treatments.

This study will take advantage of a £2m study currently underway to look at ways to improve care for people with dementia who have fractured their hip. The team at Norwich Medical School will take blood and spinal fluid samples from 200 people with dementia while they undergo surgery for their hip fracture. They will study inflammatory molecules in blood and spinal fluid as an indicator of how much inflammation is happening in the body and brain of that person, and compare their findings to samples taken from 200 people with dementia who have not had hip fractures, and 200 people without dementia who are being treated for hip fracture. They will then study how the degree of inflammation evident in blood and spinal fluid relates to people’s performance on memory and thinking tests and assessments of daily activity at one, three and six months after hip fracture.

A scientist holding a model of a human brain

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Awarded to
Prof Chris Fox

Institution
University of East Anglia

Current Award
£259,786.55

Dates
1 October 2016 - 1 October 2018

Full project name
The impact of acute systemic inflammation upon cerebrospinal fluid and blood biomarkers of brain inflammation and injury in dementia: a study in acute hip fracture and memory clinic patients

Norwich researchers awarded £260k for landmark study

Read our news story about this project.

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