We know that some types of dementia are caused by inherited gene mutations, but what if we could fix these genes to stop them causing disease? Alzheimer's Society is a partner in the UK Dementia Research Institute, which is investing £2 million in an initiative to do just that.
Gene therapy is a cutting-edge technique that is still in the experimental stages. So far it has been used to treat genetic forms of blindness and sickle cell disease, and it’s had encouraging results with haemophilia and some forms of cancer.
How does gene therapy work?
Viruses have evolved to use clever ways to package and transport their genetic information into cells of our body.
Once inside a cell, the virus is able to reproduce and spread. Scientists can use these abilities to deliver healthy human DNA into a cell instead.
This can stop mutated DNA from causing disease, meaning that gene therapy may replace drug treatments and surgery to treat many types of genetic conditions.
Where is this research being done?
The UK Dementia Research Institute (DRI) has awarded £2 million for Professor Chris Shaw to set up a hub of gene therapy research at King’s College London. He said,
‘We’re looking forward to building a key resource for the institute – pushing us further and enabling innovative research in gene therapy.’
Alzheimer’s Society is a founding partner in the UK DRI, alongside the Medical Research Council and Alzheimer’s Research UK. The institute comprises seven top research centres and it is already attracting the best and brightest global and UK researchers in dementia, care and technology.
Dr Adrian Ivinson, UK DRI Director, Operations, says,
‘The gene therapy field is undergoing a renaissance. At UK DRI, we believe in taking big risks that could reap big rewards.'
Genetics of dementia
Find out what part genes play in dementia and how genetics can affect the risk of developing the condition.