Leading charity gives £50K funding boost for dementia research in Newcastle

21 September 2018

Dementia researchers at Newcastle University have received a £50,000 funding boost from Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity. This funding comes on World Alzheimer’s Day, and as Alzheimer’s Research UK has pledged to commit a further £250 million to dementia research by 2025.

Paul Donaghy

Paul Donaghy

Dementia currently affects 850,000 people in the UK and while Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause, a number of different diseases can lead to the condition.

Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is a lesser known form of dementia, but a disease that affects around 100,000 people in the UK. People with DLB can experience symptoms including visual hallucinations, sleep disturbances and movement difficulties as well as memory and thinking problems. Just like Alzheimer’s, no cure currently exists and there are no drugs that can slow or stop DLB from developing and spreading in the brain.

Scientists think that in DLB, disease processes begin in the brain over a decade before symptoms start to show. Now dementia experts are beginning to look at ways in which they could diagnose DLB earlier than at present, and before any symptoms appear. This new funding will allow researchers led by Dr Paul Donaghy to zero in on tell-tale signs of DLB in the blood.

Dr Donaghy, who is heading up the study at Newcastle University said:

“Molecules called RNAs are cellular ‘middle-men’ that are translated from our DNA and used to instruct cells in which proteins to make. Research has identified a specific pattern of RNA production in Parkinson’s disease, a disease closely related to DLB, and we want to explore whether RNA analysis could reveal a blood-based signature that is specific to the early stages of DLB.

“The symptoms of dementia only appear after significant damage has been done to the brain, so a reliable biological test could allow us to diagnose people and trial potential treatments at a much earlier stage. We are very grateful to Alzheimer’s Research UK for this funding, which could be an important first step on the road to a blood test to identify DLB.”

Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK said:

“With 100,000 people in the UK living with DLB, it is vital that we invest in pioneering research into new ways to detect and tackle the disease. Newcastle is a pioneering hub of excellence for research into dementia with Lewy bodies so it’s fantastic to see this innovative project get underway.

“Alzheimer’s Research UK receives no government funding for the groundbreaking research we support, and it is only thanks to the generosity of our supporters that we are able to fund work like this to make breakthroughs possible.

“Anyone who would like to support dementia research themselves, by volunteering to take part in research studies can find out more by calling Alzheimer’s Research UK on 0300 111 5 111 or by visiting www.joindementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk