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Image showing an MRI scan

DPUK's New Therapeutics in Alzheimer's Disease (NTAD) study is looking to detect subtle markers of Alzheimer's disease that are visible in the brain before symptoms appear. These indicators will be used to test whether experimental treatments are successful in delaying, or even preventing, the progression of the disease.

About NTAD

Study participant in a MEG brain scanner

Universities don't make drugs – that's the job of pharmaceutical companies. To speed up the process, a new study into early Alzheimer's disease treatments, called NTAD, has brought together leading scientists from academia and industry. They are using the latest brain scanning technology to carry out research that will help efforts to find new treatments by pinpointing the earliest changes in the brain caused by Alzheimer's disease.

This will help drug developers know what to look for when they are testing the effectiveness of new therapies that aim to tackle dementia before the damage is too great to reverse. Alzheimer's accounts for over 60% of all the world's dementia cases.

NTAD uses a magnetoencephalography (MEG) scanner (pictured) to record electrical signals in the brain and 'listen' to brain activity. A volunteer having a MEG scan sits upright in a chair and completes simple tasks on a computer screen. Researchers hope to detect the impact on co-ordination between brain cells in the very early stages of dementia, with the aim of introducing new therapies to help patients and their families.

How to volunteer

Register your interest in volunteering for the NTAD study by emailing ntad@psych.ox.ac.uk. We are currently recruiting in the Oxford area and are looking for people with memory problems or a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease.

NTAD is a collaboration between private companies AstraZeneca, Janssen and Lilly, and the universities of Cambridge, Cardiff and Oxford.

Volunteer stories

As part of the NTAD study, volunteers are given memory and blood tests, and PET, MRI and MEG scans. Researchers ask a small number of participants to repeat their MEG scans after two weeks to check the reliability of the results. After a year, the researchers will invite volunteers back for a follow-up scan.

Hear first-hand from some of the volunteers who are taking part in NTAD:

Results so far

Although it is still early in the NTAD study, interim findings from the Cambridge-based team show subtle changes in brain cell activity that indicate early Alzheimer's disease. Follow-up scans of the participants after a year has now started and will establish whether these biomarkers can be used to monitor whether particular drug compounds can slow brain cell decline.