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One of the principal challenges for the dementia research community worldwide is how we can study the brain in the very early stages of the disease. This is a study within DPUK, led by Simon Lovestone, University of Oxford.

Gait lab at newcastle university Newcastle University

Damage in the brain can start to occur up to 15 years before we see symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and researchers need to be able to investigate and test interventions at this critical early stage. At present, proving that a new early-stage treatment works is difficult because any symptoms will be a long way off.

The Deep and Frequent Phenotyping (DFP) Study aims to address this by creating a database of different measures – regular brain scans, cognitive and memory testing, retinal imaging, blood tests and the use of wearable technology to measure movement and gait – which will be tracked as the disease develops. In the future we will be able to use the data obtained through DFP to understand if early interventions are working.

DFP is the most detailed study into preclinical Alzheimer’s disease for its size in the world. Currently work is underway to recruit 250 suitable participants for the study from a number of DPUK cohorts. To date the research team are recruiting from UK Biobank, EPIC and the Generation Scotland cohorts. The extensive programme of testing will be coordinated across eight different study centres and four imaging centres.

Not all of the study sites have the capacity to do every type of testing required in this study so some participants will travel to nearby centres for certain tests. Enabling research teams to make use of facilities in other centres is a key reason underlying DPUK’s work in setting up standardised protocols for use with the new research infrastructure in the UK.