Katie Wells, National Research Coordinator from PREVENT, shares the latest from this ongoing project and why it's so important to take part in dementia research studies.
For everyone involved in dementia research, understanding how we can prevent the condition is the ultimate prize.
Researchers believe that tiny changes begin in the brain 10 to 15 years before we see the symptoms of dementia.
If we can spot these early signs, we may be able to develop new treatments that target these changes and prevent people at risk of developing dementia.
The PREVENT dementia programme, led by a team of dedicated researchers at Imperial College London, is studying people who do not have dementia in their 40s and 50s.
Researchers aim to identify people at the highest risk of developing dementia by spotting factors in midlife that could increase the risk of developing dementia.
Recruiting people to take part
The end of February marked five years since the PREVENT dementia programme recruited their first participant. Since then, the project has moved on leaps and bounds.
PREVENT is now recruiting participants at five sites across the UK and Ireland. Over 550 people are taking part in the study and the team hope to recruit a further 150 by the end of the summer.
Once all 700 participants have been assessed the research team can begin to look at the invaluable data they have collected.
This data will not only be used by the PREVENT research team, but it will be anonymised and made available to other researchers across the world.
Sharing data and collaborating with other researchers ensures that the data is being used to its full potential to maximise our understanding of dementia.
Working in partnership with participants
A key element of the PREVENT programme has been working with the participants of the study.
The researcher team and participants meet regularly to discuss progress, adding other studies to the programme and tackling any issues that arise.
As the participants in the study can give unique and valuable insights to the research team.
Insights from inside PREVENT
Helen Szyra describes her participation in PREVENT as a 'privilege':
'No matter how small my part, PREVENT has given me the opportunity to "do something" to make this horrid disease a thing of the past.'
Cate Latto describes how the project has helped her deal with her mother being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease:
‘Being a participant has given a real sense of meaning to the overwhelming challenges I faced with my mother in her Alzheimer’s.
'Becoming involved in something so courageous and seeing how far we have come and how this has become a movement uniting so many, proves how powerful we are as human beings when we connect and how we can overcome fear with hope.’
What’s next for PREVENT?
The research team will begin analysing the data they have painstakingly collected over the last five years.
Clinical research like this takes time but this pioneering study could help researchers to spot the early signs of dementia and identify factors that increase our risk of developing dementia later in life.
In 2019, PREVENT participants will have the opportunity to take part in new studies, which we hope they will enjoy.
One of the most novel studies will ask our participants wear a virtual reality headset and navigate their way through a virtual environment.
Researchers can use this cutting edge technology to assess the memory and navigation skills of the participants.
The participants completing assessments over many years are at the heart of the PREVENT dementia programme.
Alongside this invaluable source of data, the research team are always looking for new ideas that can be tested to understand more about the factors that affect our risk of developing dementia.
The project is adding so much to our understanding of why some people will go on to develop dementia. However, the ultimate aim is to develop new treatments and interventions that could delay or even stop symptoms developing in people who are at a high risk of developing the condition.
Take part in research
We need thousands of people with and without dementia to take part in research. This could be taking part in a drug trial or simply giving a blood sample, completing a questionnaire or having a brain scan.