Professor Bart De Strooper
Director, UK Dementia Research Institute
Forgetfulness and memory loss, even when mild, must be taken more seriously.
These symptoms shouldn’t be accepted as just a normal part of ageing. Our research will find novel ways to measure the earliest signs of degeneration in the brain so it can be halted and treated before it’s too late.
Diagnosing problems early
Early warning systems have saved countless lives; from ocean monitoring to alert for a tsunami, to a cholesterol test to prevent future heart disease. So, what early signs can we look for in the brain as we age? This is the main question if we want to stop Alzheimer’s disease early in its tracks.
The truth is that reversing brain damage is difficult. We need to revolutionise our approach and get ahead of the problem. That’s why our 600 researchers at the UK Dementia Research Institute are united by one mission: to build a future where we’re able to identify and treat problems early, some 20-30 years before symptoms arise.
The truth is that reversing brain damage is difficult. We need to revolutionise our approach and get ahead of the problem.
Using blood and scans for brain insight
We are finding ‘red flags’ – called biomarkers – in blood and spinal fluid that we can use to detect the onset and progression of disease. Our institute has expertise and equipment in ultrasensitive brain imaging to visualise changes in the brain. This allows us to create functional maps to determine when and how changes in individual cells or even whole circuits arise in the brain and how they might be corrected. Next, we need to develop similar tools to observe brain activity in real time when it is challenged by puzzles.
Powering the race to cures
Dementia rates are sadly very high, but with the right support I have never been more confident that new solutions are within reach.
We’re inspired by the cancer research community and what can be achieved with a strong workforce and funding. It’s time for the same approach to dementia. Although today it is our biggest health challenge, it doesn’t have to be that way. A future without dementia is possible—the first light is appearing on the horizon.