Wednesday 20 March 2019

We could find a cure for dementia within the decade, claims expert

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Gareth Morgan

Gareth Morgan

Developing a cure for dementia is "not an unrealistic goal" and could happen by 2028, a global expert has claimed.

The prediction by Professor Bart De Strooper gives fresh hope to the tens of thousands of people in Ireland who are battling the condition.

The world-renowned Belgian neuroscientist said there could be a "standard toolbox" for treating patients within a decade.

This could include genetic therapies or drugs known as anti-amyloids which fight against the presence of a protein called amyloid beta, which accumulates in the brains of people with Alzheimer's.

He also said that therapies would follow the pattern set by modern cancer treatments, where the disease was treated and limited at an early stage, as opposed to when it had "taken over the body".

Nearly 40,000 people in Ireland suffer from Alzheimer's disease or some related form of dementia.

With the population ageing rapidly, this figure is expected to rise in the coming decades.

Meanwhile, the Alzheimer's Society says there are an estimated 850,000 people with the disease in the UK, with this number set to pass a million by 2025.

Prof De Strooper became director of the UK's £250m (€280m) Dementia Research Institute (DRI) in 2016.

"I think we will have a cure. In 10 years we will have a cure. I hope earlier," he said.

"You start to see biochemical changes about 20 years before dementia manifests itself so if you could stabilise the disease in this insidious phase then that would be very good, that would also be a cure.

"It's a bit like with cancer, you don't hope to treat the patient when the cancer has taken over the body, you want to treat it in the beginning when you have limited trouble.

"If you have a diagnosis at 40 or 50, then we will need to interfere with the disease like we do with heart defects by treating people aggress- ively with cholesterol-lowering drugs."

Nearly 300 researchers are working across six universities as part of the DRI to find an effective way of treating the causes of dementia rather than masking symptoms.

Adrian Ivinson, DRI chief operating officer, also told the 'Daily Express' that researchers were hopeful about creating a blood test for dementia that could be used as part of a screening programme.

"We don't have a blood test yet, but that is what we are hoping for and where we are heading," he said.

"Some of the big programmes within the institute are focused on that.

"It might be a few years but it's a realistic prospect."

Irish Independent

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