A leading dementia researcher from Queen’s University Belfast has said a cure for dementia could be found within the next decade.
But Dr Bernadette McGuinness said that outcome is more likely if research into the condition is funded at the same level as other diseases such as cancer.
Dr McGuinness, a consultant geriatrician with the Belfast Trust and senior lecturer at Queen’s, is urging people to sign up to Alzheimer’s Society’s Memory Walk at Stormont on Saturday, September 7 to help raise vital funds for research.
She sees first-hand the effect of dementia on more than 20,000 people in Northern Ireland living with the condition at her memory clinics, but also leads research into understanding dementia and to finding a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
Dementia is now the UK’s biggest killer, with someone developing it every three minutes.
Alzheimer’s Society is funding Dr McGuinness’s project researching whether TNF inhibitor drugs, already used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, could be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
“Research into repurposing existing drugs is very important because these drugs have already been through multiple, stringent tests. They are already available on the market so if they can be used for something like dementia than it means they are available at much lower cost to the healthcare system and to patients,” she said.
Alzheimer’s Society is investing in, and accelerating, dementia research. The charity has committed to spending at least £150 million in the next decade, and this year has a research portfolio including 182 active projects worth over £35 million.
In Northern Ireland alone Alzheimer’s Society has invested more than £730,000 in four current projects and has invested £2.3 million into local research in total.
Dr McGuinness is confident that with increased funding, a cure for dementia is possible in the next five to 10 years.
“I would be hopeful that we will find a cure for dementia, there’s lots more funding being pumped into the area and there are lots more researchers who have come on board from different backgrounds who are very interested and committed to finding a cure. I understand that a lot of the clinical trials recently have been negative and that’s been very disappointing, but with more and more funding and with more people interested in the area we can only succeed in future I think in finding a cure.”
Research shows that 850,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia. By 2021, one million people will be living with the condition. This will soar to two million by 2051.
For more information, or to register for the Memory Walk, log on to memorywalk.org.uk