Researcher in a lab

7 new developments in dementia research in 2019

Despite no new drugs for dementia in 15 years, we are seeing progress with different treatments and other breakthroughs. Here we celebrate just a few of this year's highlights in dementia research.

Alzheimer's Society researchers continue to make an impact on dementia research.

They are taking great strides towards new treatments, learning how best to prevent dementia, and understanding how we can support people with dementia and their families today.

Here we share 7 highlights from dementia research in 2019, and how research funded by Alzheimer's Society has played a key role. 

1. Jelly Drops: an exciting new invention to help combat dehydration in dementia

Inspired by his grandmother, Lewis Hornby has invented bite-sized sweets known as Jelly Drops to help reduce dehydration in dementia.

Alzheimer’s Society was delighted to partner with Lewis and the Jelly Drops team this year through our Accelerator programme. Together, we're working on bringing their fantastic product to people living with dementia.

2. Researchers have identified a new type of dementia

In May, an international team of researchers identified a brain disorder known as LATE. It has similar symptoms to Alzheimer’s disease but appears to be caused by the build up of the toxic protein TDP-43.

Our researchers were able to delve into this particular protein by studying human brain tissue through our initiative Brains for Dementia Research. 

The finding will help us distinguish between different brain disorders and develop precise and personalised treatments. 

3. The new blood test to diagnosis Alzheimer’s disease

Researchers developed a simple blood test that is 94 per cent accurate in detecting Alzheimer’s disease long before brain scans were able to detect the condition.

This blood test needs further testing to confirm its accuracy.

It can be used in practice but it this is an important step forward in identifying those at risk of the disease and allowing early treatment.  

4. Our world-leading Care Research and Technology Centre was launched

Over 850,000 people are living with dementia and many want to live at home for as long as possible. A dedicated team of researchers at the new Care Research and Technology Centre, based between Imperial College and the University of Surrey, aims to help people with dementia to do just that.

In April, as a partner in the Dementia Research Institute, we announced the launch of this new £20 million Centre. It will be developing technology to support people with dementia to remain independent and stay safe in their own homes.

5. Tentative steps towards a new treatment 

In Autumn, for the first time, a drug company approached drug regulators in the US for approval of a drug that may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

There are still questions to be answered around whether this drug really can benefit people affected by dementia.

The fate of aducanumab now lies in the hand of the regulators. Read the full comment from Alzheimer's Society on this.

Alzheimer’s Society was part of a pivotal genetic discovery for the first Alzheimer’s gene in the 1990s, which paved the way for anti-amyloid drugs like this one.

6. A new gene therapy to tackle inherited forms of dementia

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 a new gene therapy initiative based at University College London to do just that.

This research could change the lives of people like Hannah and Daniel who will both be affected by a rare form of dementia. 

7. Taking the reduction of dementia risk a step further

In July, an international team of dementia researchers found that following a few simple lifestyle choices may help to reduce our risk of dementia. This included not smoking, not drinking too much alcohol, eating a wide range of healthy foods and taking regular physical exercise.

This may not come as a surprise, but interestingly, this is also applied to people with a higher genetic risk of developing the condition.

Our research has previously shown the benefit of a healthy lifestyle on preventing dementia and these exciting results take this one step further.

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This post was updated and republished in December 2019.