“We are in a really exciting period for dementia diagnosis.”

Maura Malpetti - headshot WIS
Maura Malpetti - headshot WIS

By Alzheimer's Research UK | Monday 17 June 2024

Dr Maura Malpetti is an Alzheimer’s Research UK and Race Against Dementia Research Fellow. On Tuesday 16 July she will be joined by Dr Ashvini Keshavan for our online discussion event on whether blood tests will revolutionise dementia diagnosis.

We caught up with Maura ahead of the event.

What first got you into dementia research?

“Initially what surprised me about dementia was that there were no treatments to slow or stop the progression of disease. This is a devastating condition which takes so many lives and stories from many families. I was upset that there was no solution, so I thought that I could be part of the solution myself. I was really touched by stories from people affected by dementia, and I wanted to get to the source of the issue to try to understand more about how I could contribute.”

Why should people be excited or hopeful about the future of diagnosis?

“We are in a really exciting period for dementia diagnosis. Currently we using memory and thinking tests, followed by brain scans and sometimes a lumbar punctures to confirm a dementia diagnosis.

“But with the latest research developments we are now moving closer towards a point where a simple blood test could help with diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease. This would help unlock the personalised treatment and care that people need and gives people an opportunity to take part in medical research.

“I think that is one aspect. The second aspect is that getting an early diagnosis is even more crucial now we are seeing the first generation of Alzheimer’s treatments potentially arrive in Great Britain. These first drugs hopefully will open up many more routes for different kinds of drugs down the line. An earlier diagnosis goes hand in hand with drug development as it is likely that these treatments will be more effective if given at an earlier stage.”

Can you give me a quick explanation about what your work is on?

“I’m focusing on inflammation! Studies have shown that inflammation is involved in multiple aspects of frontotemporal dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other related conditions. The idea is to understand which part of the immune system is involved in different conditions and stages of the disease.

“From this work, we’re hoping to develop new tools like blood biomarkers and better brain scans,  to measure these changes in people with frontotemporal dementia and related conditions.

“The aim of this is to identify ‘profiles’ that can help us predict more accurately what will happen to a person once they are diagnosed. This project will include researching which type of inflammation is harmful and who is going to decline faster than others and why. This work will also investigate if targeting inflammation with treatments can slow down or even prevent dementia.”

What would your research mean for people living with frontotemporal dementia?

“So, my project is really trying to give us a clearer picture of what is happening in the brain of people living with dementia. Currently there is just one label for everyone when it comes to dementia diagnosis, but we know that depending on the person, dementia can affect everyone differently.”

“My work is looking to improve this. Ideally in the future, we would be able to see what exactly is going on in the brain and more importantly why. We would also ideally know when we expect symptoms to appear and predict how the disease will progress. This will be important for informing clinicians how and when to best treat people living with dementia.”

If you want to find out more about Maura’s work, join our online discussion event “Are blood tests the future of dementia diagnosis?” at 1pm on Tuesday 16 July. Find out more and register now for: Are blood tests the future of dementia diagnosis?

 

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4 Comments

  1. Victoria Owoeye on 17th June 2024 at 10:39 pm

    I will like to join in the discussion on 16th July 2024 please.

  2. Tracy on 28th June 2024 at 7:54 pm

    Please can you let me know if the discussion will be available to review off line at a later date? I would be very interested to read about the points raised in the discussion.

    Kind regards

    Tracy

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Alzheimer's Research UK