UK dementia scientists are set to gain from a huge funding boost after Alzheimer’s Research UK committed a record amount of money to new research projects. The UK’s leading dementia research charity has pledged a further £5.5m investment in new projects, increasing its current commitment to research to over £20m. The announcement, which coincides with World Alzheimer’s Day (21 September), includes awards for a total of 52 new grants aimed at understanding the causes of dementia, improving diagnosis and finding new treatments and preventions.
Projects that have been awarded funding include:
- A major three-year project led by Prof Patricia Salinas, at UCL in London, to study a protein that plays a key role in the destruction of the connections between brain cells, called synapses. The project will also see researchers test whether different molecules can stop synapses being destroyed – the first step towards the development of new drugs to help treat Alzheimer’s.
- A major programme at the University of Manchester to investigate how a person’s genetic profile contributes to their risk of frontotemporal dementia. Researchers will screen DNA samples from 1,500 people with the disease and compare them to 1,500 healthy people, to help confirm newly-identified genes that are thought to raise the risk of the disease.
Prof Salinas said:
“I am delighted that Alzheimer’s Research UK has chosen to invest in my research and my future as a dementia scientist. This funding will allow my research team to investigate potential ways of stopping synapses deteriorating as Alzheimer’s takes hold, a process that has been correlated with the loss of memory observed in the disease. With so many families affected by the disease, it is important to understand how we can prevent or treat it, and I hope my research will take us closer to that goal.”
Deborah Gatesman knows only too well the impact that Alzheimer’s can have on families. Her father, James, was diagnosed with the disease in 2003 at the age of 74, and now lives in a nursing home. She said:
“We had a two-year struggle to get a diagnosis for Dad, and watching his decline has been absolutely heartbreaking. His symptoms crept on slowly at first, but he gradually began to lose all concept of time and became more and more confused. He’s now in a home where he can receive the specialist care he needs, and even though it’s lovely to visit him, he no longer recognises me. We desperately need new treatments that could help people like my dad, so it’s great to see new money being invested in research, as it’s the only solution to this devastating disease.”
Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb said:
“The Prime Minister made dementia research a national priority earlier this year when he launched his Challenge on Dementia in March to deliver major improvements in dementia care and research.
“It’s great to see Alzheimer’s Research UK are also increasing their research funding because the scale of this challenge is immense and it’s vital for government, charities and the private sector to continue working together. We welcome this renewed investment and look forward to seeing the fruits of this research.”
Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“We are proud to announce a record year for investment in research. Dementia is an issue close to many people’s hearts and it is touching to see that public support for our work has increased despite a difficult financial climate. We are entirely dependent on voluntary donations, so this major investment in research is a vote of support from the public for UK dementia scientists. We are dedicated to defeating dementia and pleased to be supporting world-class research across the UK.
“While this increased investment reflects a successful year’s fundraising for Alzheimer’s Research UK, it’s also a time to look to the future. With the number of people in the UK with dementia estimated at 820,000 and rising, we need increased and sustained funding for research. Funding for dementia research still lags far behind research into other serious diseases and we desperately need the public’s support to make dementia a national priority.”
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