A new drug to prevent the early stages of Alzheimer's disease could enter clinical trials in a few years' time according to scientists.
Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia, which currently affects 820,000 people in the UK, with numbers expected to more than double by 2050. One in three people over 65 will die with dementia.
The disease begins when a protein called amyloid-ß (Aß) starts to clump together in senile plaques in the brain, damaging nerve cells and leading to memory loss and confusion.
Professor David Allsop and Dr Mark Taylor at Lancaster University have successfully created a new drug which can reduce the number of senile plaques by a third, as well as more than doubling the number of new nerve cells in a particular region of the brain associated with memory. It also markedly reduced the amount of brain inflammation and oxidative damage associated with the disease.
The drug was tested on transgenic mice containing two mutant human genes linked to inherited forms of Alzheimer's, so that they would develop some of the changes associated with the illness. The drug is designed to cross the blood-brain barrier and prevent the Aß molecules from sticking together to form plaques.
Professor Allsop, who led the research and was the first scientist to isolate senile plaques from human brain, said: "When we got the test results back, we were highly encouraged. The amount of plaque in the brain had been reduced by a third and this could be improved if we gave a larger dose of the drug, because at this stage, we don't know what the optimal dose is."
The drug needs to be tested for safety before it can enter human trials, but, if it passes this hurdle, the aim would be to give the drug to people with mild symptoms of memory loss before they develop the illness.
"Many people who are mildly forgetful may go on to develop the disease because these senile plaques start forming years before any symptoms manifest themselves. The ultimate aim is to give the drug at that stage to stop any more damage to the brain, before it's too late."
The other researchers include groups led by Prof. Christian Hölscher at Ulster University, who conducted the mouse studies, and Prof. Massimo Masserini at University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy, who measured the ability of the drug to bind to Aß.
Support for the research was given by Alzheimer's Research UK, and the results are published in the open access journal PLOS ONE.
Dr Eric Karran, Director of Research at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "We are pleased to have supported this study, which represents the first step to developing much-needed new treatments to fight Alzheimer's. These are promising early-stage results, and several years more work will be required to assess the potential of this approach. For science like this to make a real difference to people's lives, we must continue to invest in research."
Now entering its third year, the C4AR Annual Report for 2011-2012 is available to download.
To view the report, (a PDF document, approximately 500Kb in size), please click here.
Local people affected by Parkinson's disease were welcomed to the university for a day of talks by staff from the Centre for Ageing Research.
The seminar sessions, organised jointly by staff from the clinical psychology programme and the department of Biomedical and Life Sciences, were attended by around 60 people - including people with Parkinson's disease, people living with people with Parkinson's disease and health professionals.
The seminars provided information about the different types of research being conducted by staff across the centre - including the work by Dr Penny Foulds, Professor David Allsop and colleagues on the role of α-synuclein as a blood marker for Parkinson's disease and the work being carried out by Dr Jane Simpson and colleagues on the psychology of living with the disease.
John Ashford, a local person with Parkinson's disease who has recently set up XEED North West, a social enterprise which offers help to people with a chronic illness, and who attended the seminars, commented: "We found the Parkinson's seminar to be most informative and enlightening in relation to the topics covered; the psychological issues that can impact on some people with Parkinson's disease in relation to anxiety and mood changes and the research towards developing a blood test for early diagnosis of Parkinson's. We were impressed by the dedication and enthusiasm of the research staff involved and their willingness to share knowledge with us, and the fact that they welcomed our engagement with the research programmes. In essence, education enables a person with a chronic illness to cope with their condition. The whole day was extremely well organised, and with an excellent lunch provided. Very many thanks to all involved."
Experts at Lancaster University have developed a simple eye test that could help combat the risk of Alzheimer's. For more information about this work, led by Lancaster University and in partnership with Royal Preston Hospital, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, click this link.
Over seventy people from across the region attended the official launch of the Centre for Ageing Research (C4AR) on Friday June 18th 2010. Presentations on policy and the changing healthcare needs of an ageing population by guest speakers Mike Hill (Executive Chair of 5050 Vision) and Prof Douglas Mitchell (Associate Medical Director (R&D) & Consultant Neurologist, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust), set the scene for a range of ‘bite-sized briefings' delivered by academics from across the University. The diverse range of briefings offered an insight into the strength and vibrancy of research activities around ageing at Lancaster. Janet Ross-Mills, Chair of the Older Learners Group, concluded the event by reflecting on how Universities can best work with older people to meet their needs. The event was web streamed live for those unable to attend in person.
Located in the Faculty of Health and Medicine and directed by Prof Christine Milligan, the Centre for Ageing Research is an exciting new initiative which brings together researchers working in ageing research from Biomedical and Life Sciences, Health Research and Medicine. In addition colleagues from across the University who are involved in research around ageing, older people and age-related disease are able to contribute to this truly cross-disciplinary research activity.
Supported by external advisory groups consisting of key agencies from the statutory, private and third sectors, that have an interest in ageing and older people, as well as older people themselves, the Centre establishes Lancaster University as a leading regional, national and international centre of excellence for ageing research.
Anyone with an interest in issues of ageing and older people is welcome to review these pages.
“A very entertaining day! I learned a lot from the seminars and lectures, and was introduced to another benefit of belonging to U3A.”
Over 120 members of Lancaster and Morecambe University of the Third Age (U3A) took part in a day of lectures and seminars on 23 March 2010 to celebrate the end of the “New Learning Adventure” programme. The “New Learning Adventure” (NLA) enhanced the learning opportunities available to U3A members by enabling them to access weekly lunchtime lectures from leading academics, and discussions, as well as sitting in on undergraduate lecture series. It was run by the Department of Continuing Education in conjunction with Lancaster and Morecambe U3A and a group of volunteers from the Senior Learners Student Society. The programme was funded by the government's Transformation Fund and provided a national demonstration model for how such as partnership could work to mutual benefit and at low cost.
The learning day was followed on 24 March by a national conference at Lancaster University which was attended by representatives from 14 different U3A groups. Key note speakers included Professor Christine Milligan, Centre for Ageing Research, on Lancaster's research into ageing; Professor Chris Phillipson, Centre for Social Gerontology at Keele University, on Policy and Practice in Older People and Learning; and Dr Alex McMinn, Chair of the National Research Committee of theU3A on the U3A Perspective.
U3A and HE delegates discussed how a similar scheme might work in their own area and heard from participants, University academics and volunteers on what they had gained from their involvement in the programme.
The activities of the New Learning Adventure will continue in autumn 2010 when the programme transfers to the this centre and becomes the Continuing Learning Group. The project's evaluation report and a guide on how to set up this type of scheme will shortly be published on the DCE website, along with conference presentations.
The emphasis of this conference is the interdisciplinarity of ageing research. It aims to offer greater understandings of the range of issues recognised by those working on issues of ageing and older people. It will contribute insights from across disciplines in order to move beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries by exploring common strategies and solutions in the following areas:
Click here to view the International Conference home page.
Facilitated by some of the key thinkers, policy-makers and activists in the field, this seminar series will explore the opportunities, challenges and tensions involved in the formation of closer links between the ageing anti-discrimination and disability rights agendas.
Click this link for more information about this seminar series.