Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Tuesday, February 16, 1999 Published at 15:22 GMT


Drive to beat Alzheimer's Disease

Southampton General Hospital has undertaken pioneering work

A team of experts is to launch a concerted drive to find ways to stop Alzheimer's Disease from becoming an epidemic.

Researchers predict that the number of people suffering from the disease in the UK could double to more than one million by the year 2025.

Now a multi-disciplinary team is being assembled to develop new ways to tackle the disease.

Experts drawn from fields such as general practice, psychiatry, geriatric medicine and community health work will join forces to analyse the disease. They will be based in Southampton.

The team's first task will be to achieve a greater understanding of the underlying reasons for the success of new drug therapies.

These include drugs such as Aricept, which has been shown in a trial at Southampton General Hospital to halt the progress of Alzheimer's by an average of 38 weeks in approximately one third of patients who take it.

Dr Clive Holmes, an honorary consultant in old age psychiatry from the Thornhill Research Unit in West End, Hampshire, said: "Using our state-of-the-art gene screening technology we need to identify why some patients benefit from the drug therapy while others are unaffected.

"Ultimately, the aim must be to halt the disease in its tracks for the lifetime of any individual."

Inherited disease

[ image: Novelist Dame Iris Murdoch died of Alzheimer's Disease]
Novelist Dame Iris Murdoch died of Alzheimer's Disease
Recent research has shown that most cases of Alzheimer's are to some degree inherited.

In young patients with Alzheimer's Disease three genes have been identified, all of which appear to influence whether an abnormal protein is deposited in the brain.

About half of young people with Alzheimer's have been found to have an abnormality in one of these genes.

In the elderly, another gene has been identified which may influence how we repair brain tissue damage.

About one third of elderly people with the disease have an abormality in this gene.

Dr Holmes said: "So far about half of the genes for Alzheimer's disease have been identified.

"Finding out what genes are involved gives us a great deal of information as to how the disease develops and how we might prevent it from starting in the first place."

The new research team will make use of a DNA bank of elderly people's tissue that was established last November.

Their work has been partly funded by an £80,000 grant from the medical charity Hope.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Health Contents

Background Briefings
Medical notes

Relevant Stories

16 Sep 98†|†Health
Alzheimer's risk pinned on dad

23 Aug 98†|†Health
Brain implants may control Alzheimer's Disease

13 Aug 98†|†Health
Common bug could trigger Alzheimer's

24 Jul 98†|†Health
Bright idea for Alzheimer's

19 Jun 98†|†Health
Smoking may double the risk of Alzheimer's

17 Jun 98†|†Health
Drug offers hope for Alzheimer's Disease

05 Jun 98†|†Health
Scientists find dementia gene

Internet Links

Alzheimer's Disease Society

Biotechnology and the brain

The Whole Brain Atlas

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Disability in depth

Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

Antibiotics: A fading wonder

Mental health: An overview

Alternative medicine: A growth industry

The meningitis files

Long-term care: A special report

Aids up close

From cradle to grave

NHS reforms: A guide

NHS Performance 1999

From Special Report
NHS in crisis: Special report

British Medical Association conference '99

Royal College of Nursing conference '99