Alzheimer’s and Dementia Research Breakthroughs in 2018
During 2018 there have been some significant breakthroughs in the field of dementia research. Although there were no drug approvals for treatment or prevention, we understand more about the neurodegenerative properties of dementia than ever before.
Clinical trials produced positive data regarding risk factors and early intervention. Researchers have concluded that keeping blood pressure below 120mm Hg in people under 60 years, can reduce later life cognitive impairment by up to 16%. There have also been significant developments in immunotherapy whereby new antibodies have been discovered that can remove dementia related plaques from the brain and slow cognitive decline in those with early stage AD.
There has also been progress in biomarker detection. During 2018 researchers developed a blood test process that can detect specific dementia causing brain plaques with up to 90% accuracy. Researchers are hopeful as these tests have been found to be as accurate as the current biomarker PET scans but are much cheaper. Brain imaging technologies have also advanced. PET scans are more accurate in distinguishing between different neurodegenerative disorders and dementias.
Impact of Sleep
It was previously known that sleep deprivation is linked with dementia. However, last year it was found that a single night without sleep can increase dementia plaque production by up to 30% and that excessive daytime sleep over 2 years also led to increase dementia plaque deposits.
Although these are positive developments, we remain without a cure or effective pharmacological treatment for dementia. There are currently 425,000 Australians living with dementia and without significant research breakthrough, this will increase to over 1.1 million by 2056. In 2018, the estimated cost of dementia in Australia was $15 billion and by 2056 this is estimated to increase to $36.8 billion. In the 2014-15 Federal Budget, the Australian Government announced an addition $200 million over five years to boost dementia research. In 2017-18, two additional grant rounds were opened to support priority research projects for improved treatment and care for people living with dementia. We look forward to future breakthroughs in prevention and treatments for dementia as our understanding of risk factors, detection and the disease processes develops.
Alzforum (2018). A year in research. Retrieved from here
Dementia Australia. (2018). Million-dollar grant to drive innovation in dementia research. Retrieved from here
Department of Health. (2018). Budget 2018-19: Portfolio Budget Statements 2018-19 Health Portfolio. Retrieved here