Dementia Prevention, is one of the themes of the SDRC, which focus on the interrelated areas of dementia research. Theme lead- and SDRC chair- Professor Craig Ritchie, has written a section dedicated to the research across Scotland on dementia prevention and brain health. Read Professor Ritchie’s excerpt from the SDRC Impact Report below.
The numbers of people with end stage degenerative brain disease (or dementia) is increasing in all parts of the world, primarily because people are living longer. As we begin to understand how degenerative brain diseases start, develop and who is most at risk, we can put in place detection techniques (working with our colleagues in the SDRC Diagnosis theme) and then put in place plans to mitigate the risk of further decline. If we can do this effectively decades before the symptoms develop, then we can prevent the disease progressing to dementia.
Imagine a world where we have prevented dementia!
This work mainly includes the undertaking and coordination of cohort studies (a group of people studied over time) where we can learn about disease progression and how this is related to factors like lifestyle, medical comorbidities and genetics. At the same time as this we can also learn how best to most accurately detect disease through using biomarkers like brain imaging, blood tests or sampling spinal fluid.
Over time in SDRC we will coordinate our cohort studies and their findings, with the information we are gathering from the ‘real world’ through the roll out of the Scottish Brain Health Register (SBHR) which is a key part of the Scottish Dementia Informatics Partnership of SDRC.
This may be the biggest single area of research in the coming decades ahead. In addition to being a theme, it is an objective upon which all other themes will deliver knowledge. This can include fundamental science shining a light on important disease mechanisms or means of detection or the living well theme that will influence implementation of findings into practice.
There are currently 153 researchers and 13 PhD students working within the Prevention research theme across Scotland. Collectively they have secured over £40million in grant funding and 233 publications in the past five years.
The main advance in the field over the last 10 years has been the convincing evidence that degenerative brain disease starts about 30-40 years before the first signs of dementia appear.
Detecting early stage disease can lead to interventions that will affect the course of disease using both risk modification and direct interventions (for example new medicines). The most recent advance has been the establishment of several large cohort studies. People are becoming part of a study group in mid-life, which will add to the evidence base and allow us to develop a much more detailed understanding of risk and disease interactions that cannot currently be uncovered.
In the coming years the SDRC must engage all Scottish researchers working in the prevention field. We are currently focused on two projects which are led from Scotland. These are EPAD (European Prevention of Alzheimer’s Dementia) and PREVENT Dementia which has centres in Glasgow, Tayside, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. The further development of the SBHR will help gather real world data and enable us to test ideas that emerge from the research studies in the general population.