We had an excellent time last week when we hosted ‘Can We Prevent Dementia?’, a public event around the science behind dementia at George Square in Edinburgh. Prof Craig Ritchie, who leads PREVENT and the Centre for Dementia Prevention, hosted the evening, which was attended by around 40 members of the public. The night kicked off with some wine and nibbles before Craig gave a talk on how we could go design studies and go about preventing dementia. Many people in the audience were surprised to hear that there is a new diagnosis of dementia every 3 minutes, according to WHO figures, and that if dementia were a company, it would be the 4th largest in the world, with costs of $515bn a year.
“What we have to do to understand dementia, is understand ageing, the single biggest risk factor for diseases like Alzheimer’s”, said Craig. One of the key points made was that changes in the brain happen many years before people show symptoms of memory loss that we associate with dementia. Craig pointed out that there is a fundamental lack of understanding about early brain changes, and a lack of dementia studies that look at people before they develop symptoms. “We have to look at healthy people in mid-life to spot very early biomarker changes that will help us understand risk, and in that way, PREVENT is a unique study”, he said.
Following Craig’s talk, Dr Tara Spires-Jones then showcased key molecular and cellular studies that she leads on at the University of Edinburgh. Tara’s work is focused on synapses, the connections between brain cells that are very important in cell-to-cell communication. There is very good evidence to suggest that synaptic dysfunction is involved in Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Tara opened her talk by outlining a key issue in dementia science: whilst dementia costs society £26bn per year, we only spend £74m on research. The audience and scientists then engaged in a very thought-provoking Q&A session touching on issues such as heritability of dementia and prognosis for people with Alzheimer’s disease.
We are delighted that many more people have signed up to be members of the PREVENT programme since the event and have signed up to be kept in touch with our study updates. Help such as this, alongside the fantastic support we get from the Alzheimer’s Society, enables us to develop and progress our science. If you would like to stay informed and learn more about membership, please click here.
2016 has been a really exciting year so far for PREVENT and we’re sure there will lots of interesting updates to come throughout the year. Stay tuned!