Understanding the factors in mid-life that increase the risk of developing dementia

Read about a research project we funded into Risk Profiling for Dementia in Mid-Life for the PREVENT trial

Lead Investigator: Professor Craig W Ritchie

Institution: Imperial College London

Grant type: Project

Duration: 36 months

Amount: £213,361

Update June 2018: Professor Ritchie has been awarded £445,580 for an additional project grant to open new sites for this project. The new project will last another 36 months.

Why did we fund this project?

Comments from members of our Research Network:

'I think it is very important to be working on younger people - aged 40-59 years.'

'Really important to look at prevention in mid life as a cure is a long way off still.'

'This project is of immense importance for the reduction of dementia in the foreseeable future. Early detection, and the modification of lifestyle characteristics, will be vital in dealing with the progress of dementia.'

What do we already know?

There is a lot of evidence pointing to the fact that the pathology of dementia starts to develop many years, possibly even decades, before dementia is diagnosed.

There has been a lot of work to try and diagnose people with Alzheimer's disease before dementia develops, using criteria such as mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or prodromal (pre-symptomatic) dementia. However, there is already a significant amount of brain disease present at this earlier preclinical stage in those who progress to develop dementia.

What does this project involve?

This project hopes to find out how to identify the groups of people at the highest risk of developing dementia by working to identify factors that are present in mid-life (in your 40s and 50s) that increase the risk of dementia. This will be based on changes seen inbrain scans, blood, saliva, spinal fluid markers and subtle cognitive testing.

About 150 healthy volunteers will be divided into high, medium and low risk groups based upon whether they have a parent with dementia, and their APOE genetic status (people with the common gene APOE4 are at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease - however, people with this gene will not definitely develop the disease). The volunteers will then be followed over time to see what happens to them.

Changes in their brain scans, biomarkers and cognitive tests will be measured throughout the study to better understand the effect that risk factors have had.

If this study goes well the researchers hope to run a large intervention trial called PREVENT with the aim of lowering an individual's risk of dementia.

How will this benefit people with dementia?

By conducting this study, researchers are able to get closer to learning what risk factors increase the risk of dementia and so help us to understand how to reduce the risk. The benefits to people at risk could be great. This will also contribute to our overall understanding of the underlying causes of dementia.

Taking part

If you are between the ages of 40 and 59 and are interested in taking part in the PREVENT study, please contact the Research Coordinator Katie Wells on 020 8483 1833 or by email at: [email protected]

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