The UK’s leading dementia research charity has pledged a further £5.5m investment in new projects, bringing its current commitment to over £20m. The announcement, which coincides with World Alzheimer’s Day (21 September), includes awards of £84,000 for Aberdeen researchers.
The charity has awarded a total of 52 new grants aimed at understanding the causes of dementia, improving diagnosis, and finding new treatments and preventions. Two of these grants are awarded to pioneering researchers at the University of Aberdeen.
The commitment will help to improve the brain imaging facilities at the Aberdeen Biomedical Imaging Centre. Brain scans are a vital tool for scientists to understand what is going wrong in the brain in dementia. Prof Bettina Platt, of the University of Aberdeen, has been awarded £80,000 to buy sophisticated scanning equipment to aid this research.
She said:“Our facilities for MRI brain scanning at the Imaging Centre were in urgent need of an upgrade and this funding will now allow us to gain more precise and reliable data. The scanner is used in a range of dementia research projects, and the funding will therefore benefit scientists from across the University. Early detection of dementia is a huge challenge yet essential for effective treatments, and we hope that our research will lead to real benefits for patients and their carers in the future.”
Another grant will support a long-term project involving a group of local residents all born in 1936. Researchers have been following the group, now in their mid-70s, for a number of years looking for links between their early-life experiences and cognitive performance later in life. The new funding will support a consultant psychiatrist to continue to monitor the volunteers, giving a further insight into the risk factors for dementia.
Pat Ross, an Alzheimer’s Research UK Champion from Aberdeen, knows only too well the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s, as her husband Ronald died with the disease in June. She said:
“After Ronald was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, our world was turned upside down. I visited Ronald every day, and the most devastating thing was that by the time he died, he didn’t know me anymore, and couldn’t recognise our new grandson. I wouldn’t wish this disease on anyone, which is why I started fundraising to help support research into dementia. I recently visited one of the dementia labs at the University of Aberdeen and it really opened my eyes to the amazing work being done to defeat these diseases.”
Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“We are proud to announce a record year for investment in research. Dementia is an issue close to many people’s hearts and it is touching to see that public support for our work has increased despite a difficult financial climate. We are entirely dependent on voluntary donations, so this major investment in research is a vote of support from the public for UK dementia scientists. We are dedicated to defeating dementia and pleased to be supporting world-class research in Aberdeen.
“While this increased investment reflects a successful year’s fundraising for Alzheimer’s Research UK, it’s also a time to look to the future. With the number of people in the UK with dementia estimated at 820,000 and rising, including over 5,000 people in Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire, we need increased and sustained funding for research. Funding for dementia research still lags far behind research into other serious diseases and we desperately need the public’s support to make dementia a national priority.”