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Scientists and health study volunteers from across the DPUK partnership came together to celebrate the launch of the world’s most in-depth study into preclinical Alzheimer’s disease – one of the most important outcomes from DPUK’s work to transform dementia research infrastructure in the UK.

People standing at a DPUK five year celebration event.

The five-year celebration event saw scientists from each of the major research networks in Dementias Platform UK (DPUK) – Imaging, Stem Cells and Informatics – come together with many of the lead researchers of large clinical studies into dementia. The Deep and Frequent Phenotyping study which is about to launch, is an example of one such study, which aims to pinpoint the signs of dementia much earlier in the disease development.

Read the full press release here.

By making a major investment in the UK’s research infrastructure, DPUK has changed the dementia research landscape by bringing technology, expertise and volunteers together to accelerate the development of new treatments. The key to the success of the programme lies in the in the access that DPUK offers to securely managed big data.

Big data coupled with cutting-edge imaging and stem cell technology are helping researchers identify the molecular and cellular mechanisms associated with dementia, promising earlier diagnosis and treatment, before dementia irreversibly damages the brain. Researchers are now working to diagnose dementia early enough to disentangle how different forms of dementia start and progress.

Professor John Gallacher of Oxford University, who leads the DPUK programme said:

Dementia affects over 50 million people worldwide and is the biggest public health crisis facing us in the 21st century. We have stepped up the fight against it with this multi-million pound investment. Whilst the money is crucial, what is also important with a programme of this kind is that what it can achieve is greater than the sum of its parts. - John Gallacher, Director of Dementias Platform UK

‘What is significant is the critical role of the public in discovering the causes of dementia. Having a critical mass of reliable data wouldn’t be possible without volunteers as they are how researchers translate our understanding of the mechanisms of disease into treatments. Ensuring that relationship continues to work well is the key to unlocking a dementia-free future.’

Recognising the vital role that health study – ‘cohort’ – participants play in discovering the causes of dementia, is key to the programme. Hilary Doxford, a cohort participant and research advocate, will be speaking alongside scientists at the event.

Dr Vanessa Raymont leads the Deep and Frequent Phenotyping study. Following the pilot study, the screening phase is now about to get underway.

‘We completed analysis of the pilot study early this year and that has demonstrated that not only do the public want to contribute to Alzheimer’s research, they are also willing to undertake relatively invasive assessments in the effort to identify new biomarkers and test new treatments.

Without people being willing to do this we would not have been able to move onto launching the full study, which we hope will reveal phenotypic – or observable characteristics – which may contribute to people developing Alzheimer’s Disease. Once the study is complete this data will be part of the DPUK data portal and be accessible to researchers worldwide. This will allow new analysis and opportunities for drug trials to help find a cure and potentially prevent dementia altogether.
- Dr Vanessa Raymont, lead of the Deep and Frequent Phenotyping study

Professor Franklin Aigbirhio leads the DPUK Imaging Network. Cutting edge imaging technology supports major clinical studies into dementia. Two key papers (below) in Alzheimers and Dementia provide further detail on the network and the imaging component of the Deep and Frequent Phenotyping study.

Professor Rick Livesey is an expert in DPUK's Stem Cells Network and will share how stem cell technology uses 'disease in a dish' models to decipher how dementia starts and investigate new drugs.

Professor Paul Matthews will outline how large experimental medicine studies are pinpointing the underlying mechanisms that cause dementia, and which pave the way for new treatment.


Recent scientific publications arising from DPUK:

Radiotracer network publication (Alzheimers and Dementia)

Imaging component of Deep and Frequent Phenotyping study publication (Alzheimers and Dementia)

Deep and Frequent Phenotyping pilot study publication (British Medical Journal)

Cell reports publication

Cell reports publication