The UK population is living longer and as a result many more of us will be affected by neurodegenerative conditions such as Dementia, Alzheimer's or Parkinson's Disease. These conditions are all currently incurable and place heavy burdens on the health care system, not to mention the great personal suffering for the patient, family and carers. There is therefore an urgent need to better diagnose these conditions at the earliest stages with the hope that improved treatments to slow down or even prevent these conditions can be developed and rolled out across patient groups.
The Cambridge Biomedical Research Unit in Dementia aims to bring together the very best scientific research across many disciplines, including engineering, physics and biomedical sciences with the core aim of developing our understanding of dementia. Our research over the next 5 years will focus on the following areas -
- Looking for novel biomarkers of protein aggregation and for neuro-inflammation - this includes collecting blood and CSF from patients and control individuals to look at profiles of proteins and metabolites to see how they change with disease state and disease progression.
- Searching for new medicines which will change or inhibit protein aggregation - this involves studying how proteins aggregate in test tubes and then working out how this can be stopped using selective drugs.
- Working with small groups of patients to assess the potential of new treatments, their safety and efficacy- in particular we are interested in testing drugs that are already in clinical use but which we have now discovered may also work on aspects of the disease process. For example, in Huntington’s Disease we are looking at a drug that has been used to treat high blood pressure as it has also been found to speed up the clearance of mutant huntingtin from cells.
- Develop new tools that can accurately assess a patient's dementia which in turn will inform the type of care and treatment they need. Traditionally patients are assessed for dementia using simple paper tests, but whilst easy to use they can be misleading at times. We are therefore seeking to develop further tests that are robust and which could be trialled on large numbers of individuals and which may also be administered through the internet.
- Establish the interdisciplinary research required to provide solutions to neurodegenerative diseases and train future scientists through the development of a graduate training programme in Experimental Medicine Dementias and Related Neurodegenerative Disorders. One of our major aims is to set up the necessary dialogues between basic scientists, clinicians and patients/carers so that we can work out how best to see, treat and ultimately cure patients of their disease whilst also helping to symptomatically treat those aspects of their illness that they find most disabling. This will also involve research workers studying for higher degrees, so that from an early stage they can see how their work can best be developed as we train the next generation of clinician scientists to take on the challenge of dementia research.