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Alzheimer's disease: the facts and future

Press release issued: 26 October 2004

Leading UK researchers, based in the area, will be speaking about the latest Alzheimer's research and treatment at a free public lecture hosted by Bristol University next week.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, with 15,000 dementia sufferers in the Bristol region alone. Leading UK researchers, based in the area, will be speaking about the latest Alzheimer’s research and treatment at a free public lecture hosted by Bristol University next week.

Gordon Wilcock, Professor of Care of the Elderly at Bristol University and Head of the Bristol Dementia Research Group, will chair the lecture. Professor Wilcock’s talk, Alzheimer’s research – the local context, will discuss the history of dementia research in Bristol, the latest developments of new drugs and the genetic work being carried out in the John James Building at Frenchay Hospital. He will also thank charities connected with the Research Group.

Other topics being covered during the evening are: Ageing, memory problems and dementia; The molecular dynamics of Alzheimer’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease: seeking novel treatments.

Ageing, memory problems and dementia will be presented by Professor Roy Jones, Director of the Research Institute for the Care of the Elderly at St Martin’s Hospital, Bath. Professor Jones will explain the normal changes to memory during ageing and will explore a condition called Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) that occupies a grey area between ‘normal’ and dementia.  Dementia is more than just a memory problem; this will be illustrated by considering what happens to people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, the commonest cause of dementia in adults whatever their age.

Seth Love, Professor of Neuropathology at Bristol University, will talk about The molecular dynamics of Alzheimer’s disease. Increasing evidence indicates that Alzheimer’s disease results from the abnormal accumulation of a normal molecule, called ‘amyloid beta-peptide’, within the brain. He will discuss the reasons why amyloid beta-peptide accumulates within the brain of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and give an insight into new approaches to diagnosis and treatment.

Alzheimer’s disease: seeing novel treatments, will be given by Dr Shelley Allen, Sigmund Gestetner Senior Research Fellow in Medicine at Bristol University.

Her talk will explain how Alzheimer’s patients experience a loss of memory function early in the disease. This is associated with the degeneration of a specific type of nerve cell in the brain. These cells depend for their survival on a protein called nerve growth factor. Researchers are using new computing methods to look at millions of drug-like compounds to select those that mimic the effects of this growth factor, and prevent degeneration of brain cells. Several of these compounds have now been shown to work in cell-based trials. Dr Allen will discuss how these compounds can be used to make drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Professor Gordon Wilcock, said: “Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, with 55 per cent of dementia sufferers being affected.

“It is now clear that there is no single cause of Alzheimer’s disease but whatever causes the disease in each person, the outcome is the same – progressive decline of brain function.”

“The impact of the illness on family life is severe but at present there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. The talks will be of particular interest to local charities, carers, sufferers and their families and care workers. Everyone is welcome to attend.”

The public lecture will take place at Bristol University, Powell Lecture Theatre, H H Wills Physics Laboratory, Tyndall Avenue, on Thursday, November 4 at 6.15 pm.  The lecture is free but space is limited, to book contact 0117 918 6607.

Supporting charities attending the event include: The Alzheimer’s Research Trust (ART); Bristol Research into Alzheimer’s and Care of the Elderly (BRACE); The Alzheimer’s Society; Dementia Voice; Dementia Care Trust;
the Research Institute for the Care of the Elderly, Bath; and Brunelcare.

The Bristol Dementia Research Group is a joint venture between the University of Bristol and the North Bristol NHS Trust. It is led by Professor Gordon Wilcock and is divided between four centres:

Clinical Research Centre; Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory; Clinical Genetics and Brain Bank and Neuropathology.

The majority of the Group’s research centres on Alzheimer’s disease (AD), but they also have more minor interests in other dementias, especially those conditions that overlap with or sometimes occur together with AD. The Group is especially interested in developing new therapeutic approaches, evaluating new drugs, exploring the impact of genetic factors on response to treatments, diagnosis, and phenotypic expression, and other clinical aspects of the dementias. 

The research programme is well supported by the NHS, including a specialised Memory Disorders Clinic staffed by physicians, psychiatrists and psychologists. They also have an inpatient ward to back up the research programme when necessary.


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