Dementia research project to study body’s natural defences

Scientists are investigating if antioxidant systems could fight Alzheimer’s.

Posted on 27th June 2011

UK scientists are investigating whether the body’s antioxidant systems can be harnessed to help fight Alzheimer’s disease, thanks to a £30,000 grant from Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Led by Dr John Sharkey, the team at the University of Dundee want to know how to fight cell damage caused by free radicals. They hope to harness the body’s natural antioxidant defence mechanisms to halt the progression of Alzheimer’s, using drugs designed to kick-start these mechanisms.

One drug is based on a chemical called sulforaphane, which is found in vegetables such as broccoli and rocket. It is currently in clinical trials as an anti-cancer agent, but if the work in Dundee produces positive results, it’s hoped the research could eventually lead to clinical trials for Alzheimer’s – the most common cause of dementia.

Dr Sharkey said:
“There is some evidence to suggest that stimulating the body’s natural antioxidant defence system could help fight other brain diseases such as Parkinson’s and stroke. We now hope to show that boosting this system may help stop or slow Alzheimer’s disease.

“We are very grateful to Alzheimer’s Research UK for this funding, which will allow us to take the first steps in testing this theory. Research is the only answer to dementia, and we hope our work will open up new areas of research that could prove key to defeating Alzheimer’s disease.”

Deborah Bunn, of Battersea in London, discovered the impact Alzheimer’s can have when her mother Patricia, now 83, was diagnosed with the disease in 2004.

Deborah said:
“We first noticed something was wrong when Mum started repeating things all the time and forgetting things. She lived independently for quite a long time, but gradually things became more and more difficult, until we had to take the decision to move her to a care home.

“Mum is prescribed Aricept, and that has really helped her symptoms, but I would dearly love to see a treatment that could stop the disease in its tracks. I know that dementia research is desperately underfunded, so it’s great to see Alzheimer’s Research UK supporting such an important project.”

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“We are delighted to be funding this innovative project, which we hope could open the door to new avenues for research.

“Dementia already affects 820,000 people in the UK, and with a rapidly ageing population, those numbers are increasing. If we are to find a treatment that is so desperately needed, it’s vital that we invest in pilot projects such as this one, giving scientists the chance to test new ideas.”

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