The progress on researching dementia and understanding ways people may reduce their chances of developing dementia has increased in just recent years with the assistance of societies working to promote awareness. Many organisations are looking to fund promising research projects in order to find solutions that may present ways to cope with dementia, or even possible treatments should the research advance to its next phase. After finding new stages in the onset of dementia, scientists may now be looking to identify new treatments that may be available for all types of dementia in the upcoming years.
Scientists in York have taken a vital step towards evolving therapies for dementia after investigating brain activity in fruit flies in order to decipher the process behind the development of frontotemporal dementia – one of the most common forms of early onset dementia, which typically starts in their fifties. There are estimated to be over 700,000 people with dementia in England. The symptoms of dementia are far from part of natural ageing and diagnosis is achievable through advanced brain imaging, clinical examinations, and diagnostic testing.
The research, conducted by biologists at the University of York, exposed what transpires in the brain to drive advancement of one of the most common forms of dementia. Funded by the Alzheimer’s Society and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the results were published in The Journal of Cell Biology, giving a clearer description into how dementia begins. Scientists in York worked with the University of Massachusetts Medical School and University of Puerto Rico.
Together, the researchers study display the links between neuronal connections in the brain, known as synapses. These are affected by alterations in the protein CHMP2B, which is connected to Frontotemporal Dementia. The scientists involved in the research found signals that lead to the overgrowth of synapses, this progression has been shown to lead to neurodegeneration in the flies. Initial laboratory research into the effects of CHMP2B was carried out using Drosophila, a species of small fruit fly.
In addition to the success in research, the Alzheimer’s Society has announced that one million people have now signed up to be “dementia friends” in England; an indication that shows how supportive many are to the cause of finding a known cure to treat dementia. The Alzheimer’s Society aims to increase its investment in their research programme to around £10 million a year by 2017. This money funds important research that may help to improve the quality of life for people with dementia, by solving questions related to the causes of dementia, investigating productive practice in care and treatment, and pursuing a promising treatment. One distinctive feature of the Alzheimer’s Society research programme is the intrinsic involvement of people with early-stage dementia and carers. As part of their Research Network, volunteers with personal experience of living with dementia educate their research priorities and give a broader insight on handling dementia patients.
Research such as this is a vital step towards developing treatments for frontotemporal dementia, which has yet to receive conclusive evidence over the underlying cause. Dementia care homes are currently being experimented with to provide a new way of treating patients by presenting them with an “alternative reality;” however, thorough research may find other solutions to treating dementia of all types. Alzheimer’s Society may be devoted to encouraging and training new scientists such as Dr. Ryan West, lead author of the research, to generate vital research proposals that may assist in finding the answers to all types of questions concerning the mystery that is dementia.
There may be many ways one may get involved and support dementia research such as this taking place, from fundraising and volunteering to campaigns, conferences and events.
In what ways may societies advance opportunities for researching cures in dementia?