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.

30 comments

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Hello, my mom has been suffering from vascular dementia for 4-5 years now . My sister decided to put her in a memory care facility for two month now but I see her deteriorating faster than she was at home. Her head hit titled in a very strange way but then I found out they were giving her Haldol which I think has some side effects . She is really active to the extent that she is walking in the house all day without taking any breaks but she doesn’t relate anything to each other abd starting to forget us . By the way mom is in the US. Any help ? Advise ? I only heard about focused ultrasound which doesn’t seem to start any soon . Please advise if there is anythig could be done anywhere in the world. Stem cells ? Would it help ? She is 75. Thanks a lot

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Hello Gihan
Thanks for getting in touch. We're very sorry to hear about the decline in your mother's health. You may find it helpful to talk with other people affected by dementia going through similar situations. There are discussions happening within our online community, Talking Point: https://forum.alzheimers.org.uk/
Alternatively, we would recommend contacting Alzheimer's Association in the US for further support and advice. They have a 24-hour helpline: https://alz.org/
Wishing you all the best, Gihan.
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Alzheimer's Society blog team

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If there is no cure at the moment more needs to be done to support the people (usually elderly people) left to look after Alzheimer's patients at home without the entire situation becoming traumatic and unbearable

My father died 13 years ago

the doctors and nursing profession passed the buck to the mental health professionals and the mental health professionals said it was a nursing issue

Consequently we fell between the t
cracks of the non existent support system

We struggled as a family for seven years in a complete nightmare and nobody came near

Only when he was dying suddenly he "qualified" to have nursing care are in the last week of his life
that was the only help we ever got from a welfare state that my father had paid into all of his life

Reading these comments it doesn't sound like anything is any better people and their families 13 years later

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I've just finished a second cognitive test for memory loss, and the result, after a year between , was a little lower than the first. Personally, after all the science and new technology the world has developed in all other directions along with the funding made available for them, it appears that dementia research is not a vital concern until it hits close to home.
The result of my visits to my medical practiser resulted in advice for eating an appropriate diet, and suggestions for maintenance vitamins. Hopefully the fight against this condition will have someone get serious and through science develop a proven fix for our children, and perhaps our now aging population.
Please help out. Don't wait until it comes to your doorstep

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I was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease about three years ago, and I share the frustration of other sufferers and their carers.

The best thing I could think of was to get involved in Azheimer's research, and I have now been involved in a project for over a year. My Alzheimer's doesn't seem to be getting worse very fast, and I can ask the researchers about things that worry me, which is very reassuring. After all, I'm helping them, so it's fair if they help me too!

They also have good reason to keep a close eye on my general health, as well as checking my Alzheimer's and giving me any practical tips that they know about.

I am not expecting 'my' research project to come up with the magic drug that cures Alzheimer's! That would be silly, because hundreds of drugs have been tried and found to have no useful effects. But there are some very useful benefits for me, and I like the feeling that I am making a contribution to research, and perhaps helping many other people too.

So, if you or your loved one has Alzheimer's, I suggest you join up and get involved with the researchers straight away!

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Has the Alzheimers society heard of "drug dementia."
We believe my husband was pushed over the edge into dementia (diagnosed by a consultant) last year.by taking medications for prostrate problems.
Our GP took him off Finasteride and Tamsulosine at our request after I learned of this other type of dementia.Im pleased to say he is now much improved
I wonder if others are taking these drugs and have developed dementia.? do you know if anyone has researched this phenomenon ?

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Hi Kate, I'm very sorry to hear about your husband. We'd be very happy to talk to you about this topic If you call our Support Line one of our advisers will be able to chat.

Our Support Line is open Monday to Wednesday (9am-8pm), Thursday to Friday (9am–5pm) and Saturday to Sunday (10am-4pm), and can be reached on 0300 222 11 22.

Thank you

Alzheimer's Society

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My husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer's dementia two years ago aged 70. He is on meds but he isn't particularly monitored by anyone and so I don' know how the condition is progressing as I have only my own (and close friends and family) experience of how he is affected and how it impacts on me as his main support. He is in total denial that he has this diagnosis, which makes things very challenging and even distressing for me at times. Because of this we cannot engage in discussions and planning related to the condition. I find that he struggles at times with the simplest of tasks and activities which means I must interrupt what I am doing in order to assist him but he responds with defensive bravado when I direct his actions to complete his task. I think that he does have a deep awareness that he cannot function to the level he did before and I understand that he must feel confused, frightened and frustrated (as do I). However, any suggestion from me that it is worth discussing is met with anger and derision towards the medical profession and to me. I wonder if there are any ideas to help my husband acknowledge the diagnosis and recognise how it has affected our lives so that we can incorporate the changes it has imposed and become more positive about how to live with it?

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Dr Lawson, I agree with every sentiment in your letter. I am a Carer and look after my husband. I shudder at the mention of admission to Hospital for my Husband. I am with my Husband 24 hours every day yet my voice can be ignored even when i"m giving very helpful information to Medical/Social Staff.

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Dear Mrs.....
Please forgive me for not responding to your difficulties. Through much determination we managed to get my late mother ‘self directed care’ this was set up by our local elderly care social work department. I was the main manager of this. I interviewed people who were skilled enough to help me with my mother. We also managed to employ and pay a person she knew to help her with daily needs. Self directed care paid for this service. It meant I could leave her for short periods with people I trusted. I don’t know where you are located, but it’s worth enquiring through your local Social work department. We also had extra care at home from Marie Curie nurses when her condition became more severe. I refused to have my mother subjected to hospital admissions, so district nurses attended to her medical needs at home, it’s what she would have wanted. I do hope you get this email after such a long delay and it’s of some help to you and your husband. If I can be of any further help my email address is [email protected].
I urge you to use your voice when you disagree with their opinions about your husband.
Kind regards,
Dr. Patrick Lawson

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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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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

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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.

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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

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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 .

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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

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I definitely know how you feel. It's VERY frustrating indeed. A horrible disease because it turns our loved ones into someone else and causes all kinds of other problems. Well, as the baby boom population ages we're going to have a huge problem on our hands if we don't eradicate this damn thing. I am still too uninformed to know whether or not it's lack of funds or just that the disease is incredibly difficult to make progress on, but from all I've read it's both... I'm so sorry about your wife and I completely feel your pain with both my dad having had Alzheimer's and now my beloved big brother having had been diagnosed with frontal lobe dementia and young-onset Alzheimers 2.5 yrs ago at just 58 yrs old. Love and hope to you and to all in this same situation....

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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

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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?

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I tend to agree. I was diagnosed with dementia some 5 years ago and confirmed Alzheimers more recently. The only medication I have been given is an antidepressant so that I don't get too depressed by my condition!! There must be some more help with this and similar diseases. I would be more than happy to assist with trials and have indicated this locally. However, I have had no response and can't help but feel that, since this primarily affects the elderly, it is not on the list of highest priorities. People in affluent countries are living to a greater and greater age and and more and more will need help in this area. So, in the vernacular, let's get our fingers out and find a cure, or at least, some suitable treatments for the symptoms.

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There are developments - search ultrasound and dementia; and Dale Bredesen, End of Alzheimers

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Hi Luke, thanks for your comment.
The Bredesen Protocol (which is a focus of the book you’ve mentioned) is a type of alternative therapy that intensively uses diet, physical activity, nutritional supplements and herbal medicine to 'reverse' dementia. It is mostly sold through the services of alternative health practitioners, particularly naturopaths and nutritional therapists.
Given what we already know about risk factors for dementia, it makes sense that managing health issues (such as vitamin deficiencies, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure) would have a positive effect on someone’s memory and thinking abilities. Despite some claims, there is no firm evidence that this type of intensive lifestyle regime can ‘reverse’ Alzheimer’s disease, so the way this approach is being marketed is concerning.
A holistic and person-centred approach to treating dementia is welcome, but Professor Bredesen’s intervention would need to be properly tested in clinical trials so that people can make informed decisions about its benefits. As you’ve mentioned, the evidence is currently lacking.
Here’s more information on what we do know helps to reduce the risk of dementia: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/risk-factors-and-preventio…
We hope this is useful, Luke.
-
Alzheimer’s Society research team

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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.

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