Watch as Dame Julie Walters highlights the progress research is making towards a world free from the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia.
"My grandmother had vascular dementia and she lived with us when we were kids. We didn’t really understand her symptoms, but we all loved her to bits.
"Research offers hope. Hope that one day soon families like mine won’t have to witness the devastating effects of dementia. We will be able to take action to keep people connected to their families and themselves for longer.
"There is still work to do, but it’s incredibly exciting to see research taking strides towards life-changing breakthroughs."
Let's keep talking about dementia
Every day pioneering dementia researchers make new discoveries.
But the progress that really matters is that which makes a difference to people’s lives.
While dementia research has been underfunded and overlooked for far too long, hard-won advances from the lab have still led to important, tangible progress that has benefited people’s lives. Now, researchers are working to build on those advances to transform the way people with dementia are treated in the future.
The first dementia treatments made it to patients in the late 90s, when pioneering researchers unlocked crucial understanding of the disease. They have since been prescribed to millions of people. Whilst these drugs can only slow symptoms, we are now on the cusp of new treatments that can tackle underlying disease processes.
Scientists first cracked the human genome in 1999. That analysis cost one billion dollars and took 15 years. Today we can sequence a person’s genome for less than $1,000 and in only a few weeks. We can now test for rare, inherited forms of dementia reliably and easily. Researchers have also identified around 30 genes that are linked to dementia risk.
We now understand that there are things we can all do to support a healthy brain and reduce our dementia risk. Studies suggest that up to 40% of cases are linked to preventable lifestyle and health factors. Public health campaigns have been hugely successful in reducing rates of heart disease. We can do the same for dementia.
Markers in blood and spinal fluid can now reveal processes underway in the brain. Spinal fluid tests are already used to support a dementia diagnosis in some people. These techniques are improving all the time. Recent advances in blood testing indicate that we are at the start of a revolution in dementia diagnosis.