The Medical Research Council (MRC) launched the U.K. Dementias Research Platform (UKDP), a £16 million (approximately $27.3 million) public-private partnership for dementias research. The collaboration aims to enable earlier detection, improved treatment, and prevention of the disease.
The platform will investigate the causes of dementia across a range of different neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and motor neuron disease by looking not just at what is going wrong in the brain, but at the brain in the context of the whole body. According to MRC, the key to this whole body approach will be the study of data from two million volunteers aged 50 and over who have taken part in existing population studies such as U.K. Biobank and the Million Women Study.
Participants in these studies have provided medical and lifestyle data which UKDP researchers will link to emerging biological data from genetic studies, brain imaging, and cognitive testing. Studying the data will give researchers a better understanding of who is at risk of getting dementia, possible triggers that lead to disease, and what might speed up or slow down its progression.
The resource will also allow scientists to identify better biological and cognitive measures of the key changes associated with dementia. This will enable them to develop new and more accurate clinical trials and find ways to limit and improve symptoms and quality of life for those affected.
The project has attracted investigator teams and experts from within the U.K. and abroad. Industry partners are Araclon, MedImmune, GSK, IXICO, Janssen Research and Development in collaboration with Johnson & Johnson Innovation, and SomaLogic. The academic partners are Cardiff University (academic lead), University of Cambridge, University of Edinburgh, Imperial College London, Newcastle University, University of Oxford, Swansea University, and University College London.
“We now know that neurodegeneration can be linked to changes taking place in parts of the body seemingly unrelated to the brain and many years before dementia is diagnosed,” said Dr. John Gallacher, from Cardiff University and director of the UKDP. “For example, inflammation or infection in a completely different organ may be related to the development of dementia or to accelerating the onset in people with the disease. So it’s imperative that we look at the different stages of disease development: people who are yet to develop dementia, those who are known to be at risk of developing it, and those who are already in the early stages of the disease.”