Brief Dementia Update
NHS Dementia Atlas:
The release of the official “dementia atlas” for England - a visual map of living with dementia allows anyone to click on their own region and see how this fares compared to the average - is a good starting point for exploring regional differences in care. It includes the rates of diagnosis, emergency admissions to hospital, end-of-life care and dying where one wishes to. One section on how dementia-friendly an area is compared to a national average is a measure of the number of people who have attended a dementia friend’s session, where those with dementia can learn about living with the condition.
New Drugs for Dementia:
Please find attached a Post note from The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, which provides an overview of dementia, current treatments and potential new drugs. It examines the challenges involved in developing new drugs and in ensuring patient access. Finally, it also considers prevention strategies.
- The number of dementia cases in the UK and the associated costs are predicted to more than double by 2050.
- Current drugs for dementia marginally alleviate symptoms.
- Developing drugs is challenging because of the complexity of the underlying diseases that cause dementia.
- Evidence shows that treatment in the early stages of dementia is important.
- New UK and international initiatives are accelerating research. Researchers call for more clarity over the future of funding.
- New drugs are likely to be expensive and will not treat all types of dementia. Providing patients with access to new drugs raises a number of challenges for the NHS.
- UK policy on preventing dementia is based on the premise that a healthy lifestyle may reduce the risk of developing dementia
Researchers from the University of Cambridge, have discovered a gene signature in healthy brains that echoes the pattern in which Alzheimer’s disease spreads through the brain much later in life. The findings, published in the journal Science Advances, could help uncover the molecular origins of this disease, and may be used to develop preventative treatments for at-risk individuals to be taken well before symptoms appear.
The results identified a specific signature of a group of genes in the regions of the brain which are most vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease. Healthy individuals with this specific gene signature are highly likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease in later life, and would most benefit from preventative treatments, if and when they are developed for human use.
Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, is characterised by the progressive degeneration of the brain. Not only is the disease currently incurable, but its molecular origins are still unknown. Human bodies have a number of defence mechanisms which protect it against protein aggregation, but as people age, these defences get weaker, which is why Alzheimer’s generally occurs in later life.