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Alzheimer's research UK event in London: 8th October 2018

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Dementia research

I arrived in London for this event as a sceptic about research as my remit is the here and now.

I went for curiosity and to see what was actually happening out there in the world of research.

I entered the hall at the University College of London and was greeted by an array of trestle tables and backdrops. I noticed the tea and coffee of course.

I wandered around the tables and mingled with the ever growing crowd that had gathered.

I discovered from the off the seriousness of the researchers and its importance of research to them. They were all engaged in earnest conversations with those who had attended.

I had earnest chats every stand with the people manning them. I learnt from the off what I had suspected all along. A cure or even a glimmer of hope is still at least 5-10 years away. Everyone was open and honest on that point.

The array of research on display varied from surveys to protein seeding to brain banking to visual hallucinations in dementia and Downs Syndrome.

Here is a brief overview of each.

The most impressive to me was the study by Insight 46. This is a ground-breaking study following the lives of people born in the same week in March 1946 (the maternity survey) through to a few years back. It is hoped that by mapping the lives out and seeing the changes in the lives over a lifetime that possible indicators for early detection for dementia will flag up.

I then went to see protein seeding in a test tube works. Very complex but very interesting. Proteins are taken for a select amount of people who are living with dementia and then for a similar amount who have not got the disease. The proteins are placed in a test tube to see the patterns of growth. It is fascinating to learn that in most cases the proteins multiply in a similar like pattern. The process reminded me of Lego. It is hoped that by seeing the results in a test tube the process will enable scientists to see how the proteins turn into amyloids that cause dementia in the brain (https://hamptonresearch.com>growth_101).

A little-known fact outside of dementia are is the link between Downs’ syndrome and Alzheimer’s. I chatted to some lovely people who are researching this field and how they want to use the known genetic origins of DS to understand more about the genetic causes of AD (https://www.ucl.ac.uk>about>about-ad).                                                                 

I was particularly impressed by the table looking into building the brain in a dish. They look at neurons down a scope to see the earliest signs of what’s going wrong in the brain. I looked at a scope on a screen and saw complex tangles that highlighted the formation of brain disease: stem cell research.    

I tried to build a brain from several pieces and did it in 4 mins 25 secs which sadly for me was below the average time.

There were several scientists on hand to explain the process they use in hunting for new drugs to fight the disease.  It was interesting to see the different apparatus used.

The last table I went to are people studying the interactions between memory, attention and perception and how this will help them to understand hallucinations in both Parkinson’s and Dementia with Lewy bodies. I was shown a black and white image and was asked to work out what it was. I got one part of the image correct but I guessed at the rest. It was intriguing to see how the mind relates to an image you can’t make out, so you use imagination and memory I paused for tea and scone halfway through and tweeted live from the gathering several times.

I finally left a little more enlightened on research that I was before going and although my remit on the here and now still stands, I am more of a research fan than before.

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