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.

Please support our research

Your donations help us to continue vital research into understanding the causes of dementia, improving diagnosis, finding better treatments, and ultimately searching for a cure.

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This post was updated and republished in December 2019.

16 comments

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As a general rule, and definitely in our area, once diagnosed patients are discharged from the Memory Service after 1 year and no further scans are given. Surely if patients are not monitored and scanned regularly after diagnosis to see how disease is progressing and at what rate; this hinders research and ways of helping to find better treatment and cure.

I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease 3 years ago at the age of 59. For several months I had noticed tremors in my right hand and the shaking of my right foot when I was sitting. My normally beautiful cursive writing was now small cramped printing. And I tended to lose my balance. Neurologist had me walk down the hall and said I didn't swing my right arm. I had never noticed! I was in denial for a while as there is no history in my family of parents and five older siblings, but now accept I have classic symptoms. I am taking totalcureherbsfoundation.com herbal treatment  and am about to start physical therapy to strengthen muscles.this herbal treatment has full get rid of my PD after 15 weeks of usage and it has reversed all symptoms.

On the subject of ' sensitive topics in dementia ' I know I'm not alone in having a partner with dementia, who does strange things with his ' poo' . I felt very alone and frustrated, until the nurse at the memory clinic told me it's not unusual, and now I'm relieved my partner only pushes it down the bathroom sink, and doesn't 'hide ' his poo as some dementia patients do. But this strange behaviour is not talked about or explained, and must come as quite a shock to other carers as it did me.

There are much more advance treatment/research in America. Why is it not possible to colaberate with other countries such as brain estem cells from young brains inserted into elderly brain. Apparently this has shown fantastic results! Are we even looking at these simple solution? Or studies.

What is the outcome or latest information regarding the Dementia Services Mapping Research Project that was being undertaken in Derbyshire in conjunction with the Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust funded by the Alzheimers Society.

Hi Joe, this study is still ongoing and seeking participants. You can find more information here:
https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/research/our-research/research-projects/u…

Last week my husband and I spent 2 days at University
College London participating in their research. We have done this for over 10 years. This year we learned that the first babies are being born in Britain to parents at risk of a genetic form of dementia with the benefit of IVF. These babies do not carry the gene! It's good to see some positive changes happening as a result of research.

I've had Alzheimers for 3 years and have seen no progress in countering the disease. That bothers me. Where can I find a detailed, accurate account of Alz Society's aims, current projects, expenditure, achievements, successes and failures?

Please respond to this earlier question:
There are much more advance treatment/research in America. Why is it not possible to colaberate with other countries such as brain estem cells from young brains inserted into elderly brain. Apparently this has shown fantastic results! Are we even looking at these simple solution? Or studies.
Joe Ashton
says
18 January 2019 at 8:11 pm
Reply

when i read letters coments ect i am amazed my wife has had dementia for 4 yearsnothing i have read gives me any hope whatsoever

I agree with sue after the first year your forgotten.
The test are out dated some are 30years old and still been used to day by people with know experience or knowledge of the condition.
I've said this before to all parties they need retraining get rid of this stigma it only effect people over the age of 70th .
I could go on but am so bitter and let down by you all .

My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimers in 2014 aged 77yrs, She passed away just 2 years later. Mums eldest sister also had alzheimers and lived for 15years with the condition until she passed away about 10years ago aged 80yrs. Since my mum passed away we have discovered mums younger sister (now 81) is in the grips of this awful disease. I would like to think that someone somewhere would like to understand the link to 3 sisters getting the disease. Is this normal in families? To add insult to injury I am now supporting my dad who has dementia...Alzheimers not yet diagnosed, not that it makes any difference because like a lot of people have found, once you have been diagnosed you are pretty much on your own. I wonder what happens to elderly people with this disease that have no family to support them.

Hi June,
Sorry to hear about your mother and aunties. That must have been very difficult for you.
Whether or not dementia can be passed down through the family depends very much on the type of dementia. With Alzheimer's disease, it's not inherited in the vast majority of cases (less than 1 in every 100 cases). With other types of dementia, such as frontotemporal dementia, it is more common.
We have some information on our website here which you may find useful: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/risk-factors-and-preventio…
I'm sorry to hear that your dad is now living with dementia as well, and that you now feel on your own. As you say, it's great that your dad has your support and I'm sure that means a lot to him.
If you haven't already, I'd recommend calling our helpline to see what other support might be available to you. You can find the details here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/national-dementia-helpline
You can also try searching our dementia directory to see if there are any local services or groups in your area that can help you and your dad: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/find-support-near-you
Lots of people also find our online community, Dementia Talking Point, to be a useful resource. Here you can talk to other people going through similar situations, ask questions and share your own experiences. It's open 24/7, free to browse or sign-up: https://forum.alzheimers.org.uk/
I hope this is helpful - please do get in touch if you need any more support.
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Alzheimer's Society blog team

I was a former care giver I’ve did every thing possible for her . We been together 14 yrs .not married now in December she is in a inspired living care I still take care of her to a limit . I go every day for 3 to 4 hrs . I wonder if there is any new development that will help her .? She still knows me. Larry

I was diagnosed with Juvenile Parkinsonism at 16 after two years of doctor visits, tests and scary misdiagnoses. I remember being perfectly healthy, never even having had the flu until I was diagnosed. I was 47 at the time and was out to dinner with my family to celebrate after I got promoted at the office. While in the middle of a conversation with my mom, I passed out. About 30 seconds later I popped my head back up and continued like nothing had happened, while everyone looked like I was crazy. I lived with this all my life till someone told me about madida parkinson disease herbal formula. I place an order from their website at www . madidaherbalclinic .weebly .com, I was on madida herbal treatment for 9 weeks but I am 48 this year with no sign of Parkinson disease again. Madida PD herbal formula get rid of my PD.

I looked after my mother for four years at home. She was diagnosed with vascular dementia. Earlier during the initial stages of the diagnosis, she asked me to promise that I wouldn’t put her into a care home. She needn’t have worried about this because I wanted her to have all the love and care I could provide. I valued her for everything she sacrificed for me. It was an easy decision. She died on the 16th of November aged 89. I miss her everyday. No matter how difficult it became at times, I managed to get a smile from her. She was a practising catholic who attended her church everyday when she was well. She couldn’t do this as the illness progressed, so she received daily communion in her bedroom. This was so important for her.
She ended up having to go into hospital for tests, we thought this would be for a few days, it was for six weeks. It was soul destroying for her in a four bedded ward with frail elderly people who literally couldn’t eat, and weren’t being fed. We eventually got her back home after weeks of unnecessary tests such as three failed lumbar punctures, scans, various drug therapy. All proved hopeless and invasive. She was diagnosed after her stay in hospital with a hospital bug - pseudomonas infection. I’m positive she’d have lived longer with dementia if she hadn’t contracted this awful hospital bug. When she became very ill we requested help from a respiratory consultant / specialists to treat her with nebulised antibiotics, they refused this, saying that she would have to be admitted to the same hospital were she caught the infection . I had local politicians fighting this case. Stating that my mum was far too frail to be moved - still they refused. I successfully resuscitated her when she stopped breathing she lasted four more weeks smiling, eating and happy. Eventually she stopped breathing again due to the infection On Saturday 16 November and we lost her to this awful pseudomonas infection.
I’m angry when I hear policy pushers mention integrated home care and how it’s so important for dementia sufferers dignity. There is so so much more needing done to change opinions of supercilious medics, who presume to know best, and who are reluctant to value elderly dementia sufferers - they don’t appreciate the humanity -the life history nor the dignity that went before dementia.
I know I did everything I could do, perhaps due to the fact i was a registered nurse. For a period i worked as a manager In an elderly care unit and quit, because it wasn’t what it was proclaiming to be. I wouldn’t have put any relative in such a place. I know they are not all the same, but for me I’d want to know ‘who’ was looking after someone I loved, whether it a frail parent or a child, in the society we live in, I really believe its necessary to protect whom we love.
I am a priest and psychologist. I want to lobby the government to fine tune care, making it safe and possible for people to be cared for in a loving natural way at home, with everything provided respectfully - no matter the costs. Family members need to know things will work out in these circumstances, instead of fearing how they’ll survive. I know, because I was one of them it cost me financially, mentally and spiritually. Still, it was for someone I loved and respected, and whom I know appreciated every minute of care she got- even though she sometimes couldn’t thank me, but when she did with a smile it was everything and more. I’d do it all over again if I could!

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