The latest generation of dementia research


By Catherine McKeever | Wednesday 11 May 2016

As Dementia Awareness Week approaches, BBC Horizon has thrown a spotlight onto dementia research with their latest programme featuring recent advances in the field. One of the studies discussed in this programme was a large research study looking at ways of helping people to live well with dementia. This study, called the GREAT trial, focused on a non-pharmaceutical form of treatment called ‘cognitive rehabilitation’. This technique aims to introduce strategies that help people with dementia manage everyday tasks. This is done by setting personal goals and finding ways to achieve them; the focus is on developing the individual’s strengths and helping them to overcome challenges they face.

Join Dementia Research

Although the GREAT trial featured in part of BBC2’s ‘Horizon: Curing Alzheimer’s’ is no longer recruiting, there are over 75 dementia research studies looking for new volunteers across the UK. The researchers running these studies are able to search for potential participants through a nationwide research register called Join Dementia Research.

Registration for Join Dementia Research is quick and easy, taking only 5-10 minutes in which you will be asked some questions about yourself and your general health. A match-making process then searches your information against the criteria researchers have set for their studies, creating a list of the ones that you match to.

ARUK - MRI - 197

As Horizon demonstrated, the fast-changing landscape of dementia research is bringing us new studies aiming to defeat dementia; from observational studies gathering much-needed information, to promising new clinical trials testing experimental drugs. Join Dementia Research is now acting as a platform for researchers to reach members of the public, bringing willing volunteers and dementia research experts together to accelerate current understanding and move one step closer to making dementia a thing of the past.

Getting involved in research studies

Whether you are a healthy adult wanting to do your bit, or someone with a diagnosis of dementia – if watching Horizon has ignited your interest in volunteering for dementia research, then signing up for Join Dementia Research is the way to make this happen. Take a look at some of the studies that are either currently, or soon to be, recruiting through Join Dementia Research.

Studies that are available for both healthy volunteers and people with dementia include:

  • sea-hero-logoSea Hero Quest – Alzheimer’s Research UK has teamed up with Deutsche Telekom and scientists from University College London and the University of East Anglia to develop this fun and accessible smartphone game. Anyone can download the game and instantly contribute to dementia research. Playing the game will help our scientists understand in detail how our brains navigate space, providing a benchmark of normality for researchers to use when looking at the challenges faced by people with dementia. Although difficulties with navigation is a dementia symptom that is not as well-known as memory loss, it is a problem that can occur early on in the condition. Playing this game will help researchers to understand more about the navigational changes a healthy brain experiences during life, creating a reference point for determining what goes wrong in the brain for people with dementia.
  • ‘SILAD’ study – This study, funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK, is looking at the role of the immune system in dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). Volunteers over 50, both with or without a diagnosis of dementia, are invited to take part in this study. You will be asked to undertake memory and behaviour assessments, and have a blood test. Results from healthy volunteers will be compared against those of volunteers with DLB, and others with Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers hope that knowledge gained from this study could contribute to the development of new treatments for DLB, and more accurate diagnostic techniques.
  • AD Genetics – This study, funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK, is looking for volunteers who first experienced the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease before the age of 65 (early-onset Alzheimer’s). To try to better understand why some people develop Alzheimer’s at a relatively young age, researchers at Cardiff University are leading a team of scientists from around the world in analysing data from a large number of people with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The project is improving understanding of the genetic and environmental factors that affect a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s under 65. Understanding the processes that underlie this increased risk may reveal important targets for future Alzheimer’s treatments.

Studies investigating potential new drugs for people with dementia-related memory difficulties include:

  • ENGAGE – This study, which is now recruiting through Join Dementia Research, is looking for 50-85 year olds experiencing memory difficulties. Volunteers fitting all the eligibility criteria may be invited to be screened – a process that involves a brain scan and blood tests. If screening is successful, the volunteer will be invited to take a drug called aducanumab, which the research team hopes may slow cognitive impairment in people with early Alzheimer’s disease. Earlier trials of this drug grabbed headlines back in 2015, so the results of this study should show if this new treatment holds potential.
  • AMARANTH – This study is currently looking for people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Volunteers would be asked to take a new tablet that is being investigated for its potential use in slowing down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. As part of this study, volunteers may also be asked to have brain scans, complete questionnaires about their memory, and have blood tests. The study team will be looking to see if taking this drug helps to reduce the formation of amyloid plaques – a hallmark feature of Alzheimer’s disease – as well as slowing down the decline of memory and thinking skills.

To take advantage of these and other opportunities to contribute to the fight against dementia, read more about Join Dementia Research on our website. If you prefer, you can also call our Dementia Research Infoline on 0300 111 5 111.

Over the next couple of weeks, the BBC will be airing multiple programmes and online content about dementia and how you can join the fight. In particular, keep an eye out for two of our incredibly inspiring supporters who have dedicated their time to raising awareness in every way they can.

By submitting a comment you agree to our comments policy.

Leave a Comment

About the author

Catherine McKeever

Team: Science news