Preventing dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis: A new research centre

03 May 2017

We have awarded £1.5m for the creation of a centre that will undertake potentially revolutionary new research into Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and dementia.

Professors Jack Cuzick CBE and Gavin Giovannoni (pictured) and their teams at QMUL and Barts Health NHS Trust are joining forces to examine whether simple treatments can prevent or delay the onset of these disorders that affect the brain and nervous system.

“Brain diseases such as dementia are among the greatest public health challenges of the 21st century,” says Professor Cuzick CBE, Director of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine – part of Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry at QMUL. “By spotting them early, we may be able to prevent or delay them – and help people age more healthily.”

With an ever-ageing population, brain diseases such as dementia continue to rise and, by the time the disease presents itself, irreversible damage has already been done. Early identification of individuals at risk is therefore critical in order to prevent the worst effects of the diseases.

This new research will develop ways to spot people at risk of developing these diseases, and look at whether simple treatments – such as aspirin for vascular dementia – can delay their onset.

The socioeconomic burden of these major neurodegenerative diseases can’t be understated, so this study has potential global health significance. Current estimates for those living with dementia in the UK for example, are 800,000, with 11% of deaths in the UK in 2015 being from dementia. Multiple sclerosis affects approximately 100,000 people (with an estimated cost to society of £1.4 billion per year in the UK), and the number of people with Parkinson’s is set to rise to 162,000 by 2020.

On awarding the funding, Fiona Miller Smith, Chief Executive of Barts Charity, said: “The number of people affected by these neurodegenerative diseases in the UK is enormous, and the opportunity to implement preventive measures in their onset, with potential global health significance, is an exciting prospect that we’re proud to be an early funder of.”

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