Ben Howlett, the MP for Bath, witnessed first-hand the ways a collaboration between Alzheimer’s Research UK and the University of Bath is leading the fight against dementia when he visited a lab last Friday (15th July).
Ben toured the labs of dementia researchers Dr Julien Licchesi and Dr Rob Williams, and learned about projects which could lead to new treatments to slow down the progression of dementia.
Ben said: “Having had a grandmother with vascular dementia, I know firsthand what a distressing condition it is for those with it and their families.
“With an ageing population this will be an increasing problem, with over 1 million people predicted to have dementia by 2021.”
“We still know relatively little about Alzheimer’s, and improving research is incredibly important to tackling the problem. It was really encouraging to see some of the research here today and I am very proud that such ground-breaking work is taking place in my constituency.”
Dr Licchesi said: “We already know that dementia and other forms of neurodegeneration share a common characteristic, the build-up of toxic proteins in the brain.
“The precise nature of these toxins may differ in the various forms of the disease but the problem still remains that the brain fails to remove them. With the support of Alzheimer’s Research UK we aim to understand why the brain fails to remove these toxic proteins and how this leads to brain cell death.
“We hope that by finding out this key information we will be better equipped to develop new treatments which can slow down or stop the progress of dementia. ”
The University of Bath, together with the University of Bristol, is home to Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Bristol and Bath Network Centre. As one of 15 national hubs for the charity’s Research Network, this centre of excellence has been awarded £70,000 in funding over two years.
It has brought together scientists from a variety of disciplines, allowing them to pool their expertise and share ideas and resources.
The Network aims to support existing researchers as well as attracting new scientists to use their expertise to answer important questions in dementia research. Each Network Centre can use their funding to support local researchers through travel grants, equipment grants and small projects.
Dr Matthew Norton, Head of Policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Currently 850,000 people are living with dementia in the UK, including around 7,000 in the Bath and Bristol area alone, and we urgently need better ways to treat and prevent the diseases that cause it.
“Members of our Research Network in Bath have shown a real commitment to this challenge, and we’re delighted to help shine the spotlight on the vital work they are doing.
“Investment in research is crucial if we are to deliver effective new treatments to the people who need them, and it’s important that this work is given full backing from all of us – charities, government and the public.”