Two teams of Aberdeen experts are pioneering Alzheimer’s research, potentially on the cusp of a ground-breaking new way to diagnose and treat it.
Late-stage clinical trials are taking place to develop brand new therapies, alongside other leaps in technology.
Globally, it is estimated someone develops a form of dementia every three seconds, affecting how they think, remember or make decisions.
It is thought a type of protein in the brain could hold the key to discovering more about the devastating illness – leading to safer and more effective treatments.
What is tau-based research?
Everybody has healthy tau proteins found in their brain cells, which play a number of roles including around long-term memory.
But sometimes these can “misfold” and clump together, forming tangles.
These stop the brain working properly, causing cells to die – and their presence is strongly correlated with the development of dementia symptoms.
In some cases, they can appear up to 20 years before any signs of illness become noticeable.
Future Alzheimer’s tests could be taken at home
Focusing on these proteins could allow scientists to develop new strategies for diagnosing the condition.
In some cases, it could allow for tests to be taken from the comfort of a patient’s home.
Early diagnosis will also let anyone finding an early indicator make lifestyle adjustments which could prevent the condition worsening later in life.
Bjoern Schelter, chief executive of GT Diagnostics, said: “Nearly 100 years after the condition was first identified, we still need an effective way to reliably and accurately diagnose Alzheimer’s disease early.
“Our tests harness the capabilities of digital and smart psychometric testing to transform the speed, ease and efficacy of diagnostics.
“Focusing on digital means initial assessments could even become self-administered in the comfort of people’s homes – taking the pressure off the NHS.”
Could Alzheimer’s be halted before symptoms begin?
The firm has been collaborating with Aberdeen-headquartered TauRx Pharmaceuticals, which has been leading global research into these proteins for 30 years.
TauRx is currently conducting late-stage clinical trials, having developed a drug it believes could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms.
Chief operating officer Glenn Corr said: “If we can diagnose really early and start treatment, then we can either slow down or halt progression of the disease before people suffer any symptoms.
“So people could have the pathology, but never actually suffer the symptoms of it.”
In Scotland, more than 90,000 people are living with dementia and Alzheimer’s is responsible in half of these cases.
Globally, this number is expected to triple, rising to 152 million by 2050.
Currently, there is no cure, making it one of the world’s greatest unmet medical challenges.
More health news…
- Mixed dementia explained: As Denis Law reveals diagnosis, we answer the most common questions
- Interactive: How a simple tipi tent sparked ‘hugely ambitious’ plans for UK’s first outdoor dementia centre
- MP recalls praying for grandmothers’ recovery as dementia left them ‘shadows of their former selves’