Golden age for research into dementia in Bristol
A BRISTOL scientist believes the city is entering a golden age for research into dementia.
The city has long been a leading centre for research into Alzheimer's and other forms of the brain disorder both nationally and internationally but a Bristol University professor believes that ongoing projects in the city could lead to treatments being developed to help patients.
And professor of neuropathology Seth Love credited a small Bristol charity for funding much of the early research that has led to the larger trials that could see huge strides being made in the treatment of dementia in coming years.
Brace, which is based at Frenchay Hospital, is celebrating its 25th anniver- sary of funding research into Alzheimer's in Bristol, Bath and Cardiff.
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As well as celebrating the landmark, the charity – which started when people were still doubtful about the impact research could have on dementia – can celebrate its involvement with an initial study that could lead to a drug being made available to ease the symptoms and early progression of dementia.
Prof Love said that much of the research that is now being carried out into Alzheimer's in the South West Dementia Group has come out of research conducted in the brain bank on the Frenchay Hospital site.
"For quite a while now we have been one of the leading pre-clinical dementia research groups in the UK with a strong international reputation," he said.
"And to a large extent that is down to Brace who have been funding and providing core support for many years.
"Without Brace we would not exist. As a result of the work which has been done with the support of the South West Dementia Brain Bank and Brace funding, I think we are really entering a golden age in dementia research here in Bristol and are now in a position to take some of the research advances that we have made here with the brain bank with support from Brace and other charities and the research can be translated then into treatments for patients with dementia."
Work on dementia in the city is focusing on two main areas – how to remove a substance called amyloid, which builds up in the brains of people with Alzheimers, and how to improve the blood flow in the brains of people with the dementia.
It has already been established that in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease there is a reduction in blood through the brain and the team is looking at how they might be able to restore the blood flow in the hope of alleviating some of the symptoms and the progression of the dementia.
A drugs trial is planned using the drug Losartan – which is already licensed and available for use on the NHS – to see whether it can improve blood flow in the brain in people with Alzheimer's.
The project is being led by Dr Patrick Kehoe and will involve other centres in the UK. He said that it was down to the small trial funded by Brace that his team could apply for funding to move the project on.
"For them to have input on a trial that may end up making a very significant difference to patients is fantastic for Brace because they got the ball rolling," Dr Kehoe said.
"Sometimes it is the initial studies that are key to eventually funding new drugs."
Prof Love said that some of the early clinical trials that led to the development of the first generation of Alzheimer's drugs came from the work of Prof Gordon Wilcock, who founded the dementia research group, with funding from Brace
The dementia team is also working with neurosurgeons to see whether they can deliver shots of enzymes directly to the brain to break down amyloid. The research is not yet at a point where it can be trialled in humans but it is hoped that it will eventually reach that stage.
Chief executive of Brace Mark Poarch said the advances that have been made in dementia research over the 25 years of the charity showed that it had made a difference, but that now the focus is to move from being an organisation that raises £500,000 a year to £1 million to £2 million.
"I just think it is fantastic for the charity to know that it has made that difference," he said.
"There are people still connected with us that go back those 25 years and it must feel satisfying for them to know that they are helping to change the world for the better."