There are almost one million people living with dementia in the UK. We need to find better ways to:
- diagnose the diseases that cause dementia
- treat people affected by dementia
- improve care for people living with the condition.
Research has the power to help us do all of these things.
While there are medicines that can help people’s symptoms, there are currently no treatments that can prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s from developing or slow the way they spread through the brain. This might sound like a big task, but throughout history there have been many diseases that have affected large numbers of people and at one time, seemed impossible to fight.
You’ve probably never heard of smallpox. Smallpox is a disease that affected humans for thousands of years and killed an estimated 300 million people in the 20th century alone. Nobody was able to find a way to fight this disease until a British scientist called Edward Jenner noticed that people who had caught a less dangerous disease called cowpox, never seemed to develop smallpox. He had a theory that cowpox protected people from smallpox so he carried out some scientific experiments and went on to develop the world’s first vaccine against smallpox.
Smallpox was completely wiped out in the 1970s and what was for a long time one of the most feared diseases in the world, is now something you might learn about in history lessons. All thanks to scientific research.
Not all diseases can be prevented in the same way as smallpox, but even very complex diseases like cancer and heart disease can now often be treated successfully thanks to dedicated scientists who, like Edward Jenner, developed theories and tested them with experiments.
Despite what many people think, dementia isn’t an inevitable part of getting older. It’s caused by diseases and there’s no reason why the scientists of today and tomorrow won’t be able to make dementia something that is taught in history class.
I'd like to study neuroscience, so that I can do research and contribute to understanding a disease that affects so many people in the UK. I think to myself 'how amazing would it be to be part of that in the future.'