Monthly Archives: July 2013

Five new innovative pathfinder projects are being funded under the JPND-aligned CoEN initiative

The Centres of Excellence in neurodegenerative disease (CoEN) initiative, launched in 2010, funds collaborative research in the field of neurodegenerative disease, spanning disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Motor Neurone Disease.

Under the second CoEN funding call, €3.0m has been awarded for 5 “Pathfinder” projects, constituting innovative and creative proof-of-principle studies which, if successful, will provide a step change in neurodegeneration research.

The awarded projects take a ‘high risk, high pay-off’ approach to identify and validate new potential drugs and develop innovative therapeutic approaches for Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias. These projects bring together a wealth of resources and expertise from a number of research centres in different countries to tackle scientific questions that are vital to advancement within the field.

To ensure momentum, successful “pathfinders” will have the potential, in subsequent phases of the initiative, to win substantial follow-on funding that will help take the proof of principle studies to the next stage where they can have wider scientific and clinical impact.  

The funded projects are:

1. Targeting glucocerebrosidase for disease-modifying treatments in Parkinson’s disease
Anthony H.V. Schapira (UK), David Park (Canada), Donato Di Monte (Germany) and Fabio Blandini (Italy)

2. WNT signaling: biomarker and target evaluation in Alzheimer’s disease
Antonio Cuadrado (Spain), James Woodgett (Canada) and Simon Lovestone (UK)

3. Mechanisms of amyloid-beta clearance in models of vascular cognitive impairment and mixed dementia
Gabor Petzold (Germany) and Danica Stanimirovic (Canada)

4. In vivo neuronal cell reprogramming for a new regenerative approach in Parkinson’s disease
Vania Broccoli (Italy), Alexander Dityatev (Germany) and Josè Luis Lanciego (Spain)

5. microRNA as novel therapeutic targets and disease biomarkers in Alzheimer’s Disease, Frontotemporal dementia and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (NEURO-MIR)
Jochen Prehn (Ireland), Andre Fischer (Germany), Pierre Lau (Flanders), Jose Lucas (Spain)

CoEN is an international initiative involving research funders in the UK (Medical Research Council), Canada (Canadian Institutes of Health Research), Germany (DZNE), Belgium (Flanders, VIB), Ireland (Science Foundation Ireland and Health Research Board), Italy (Ministry of Health), Slovakia (Slovak Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport), and Spain (ISCIII). The aim of the initiative is to encourage collaborative research between recognised national centres of excellence in neurodegeneration research. COEN is aligned with JPND, although it operates as an independent entity.

For further information please visit the links below:  

Results from two major cohort studies reveal that the number of people with dementia in the UK is substantially lower than expected because overall prevalence in the 65+ age group has dropped.

The two studies provide the first estimate of the change in the number of people living with dementia in the UK. The results indicate that overall prevalence has gone down by 1.8 per cent to an estimated 6.5 per cent of the population. Using the current age profiles of the UK this corresponds to an estimated 670,000 people over the age of 65 living with dementia, a reduction of more than 20 per cent in the number of people projected to have dementia today compared with 20 years ago.

Three geographical areas in Newcastle, Nottingham and Cambridgeshire from the initial MRC Cognitive Function and Ageing Study (CFAS) examined levels of dementia in the population. The latest figures from the follow up study, CFAS II, show that there is variation in the proportion of people with dementia across differing areas of deprivation, suggesting that health inequalities during life may influence a person’s likelihood of developing dementia.

The study was led by Professor Carol Brayne from the Cambridge Institute of Public Health at Cambridge University. She said: “This study provides compelling evidence of a reduction in the prevalence of dementia in the older population over two decades. Whether or not these gains for the current older population will be borne out in later generations would seem to depend on whether further improvements in primary prevention and effective health care for conditions which increase dementia risk can be achieved, including addressing inequalities.”

The full results of the study are published online in The Lancet on Tuesday 16 July and are available for download at the link below.

(Article modified from MRC press release)

The most recent findings have been published from the TRACK-HD study, designed to create an unprecedentedly detailed map of changes in prodromal and early Huntington’s disease.

The latest findings from the TRACK-HD study are published in The Lancet Neurology and could be used to assess whether potential new treatments are slowing the disease up to 10 years before the development of noticeable symptoms.
 
“Currently, the effectiveness of a new drug is decided by its ability to treat symptoms," says lead author Professor Sarah Tabrizi. "These new tests could be used in future preventative drug trials in individuals who are gene positive for HD but are not yet showing overt motor symptoms.
 
"These people have the most to gain by initiating treatment early to delay the start of these overt symptoms and give them a high quality of life for a longer period of time."

Read Francis Walker’s editorial in The Lancet Neurology.

Direct link to study results available at the link below:

Older people with Alzheimer’s disease are less likely to also have cancer, and older people with cancer are less likely to also have Alzheimer’s disease.

This is according to a study published in Neurology on 10 July 2013.

The study of 204,468 Italian people aged 60 and older found that over six years, 21,451 people developed cancer and 2,832 people developed Alzheimer’s disease. 161 people had both cancer and Alzheimer’s. That number would have been expected to be 281 for cancer and 246 for Alzheimer’s.

This means the risk of cancer was cut in half for people with Alzheimer’s disease and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease was reduced by 35 per cent for people with cancer.

Direct link to the study available below:

MEPs set to draft written declaration aimed at improving the quality of life of people living with chronic degenerative brain diseases

The pledge to table a written declaration was unveiled by Austrian ALDE deputy Angelika Werthmann at an event in the European parliament on Tuesday July 9th and is expected to be drawn up after MEPs return from their summer break in September.

Werthmann, a vocal campaigner on issues surrounding neurodegenerative diseases, told participants that the increasing prevalence of people suffering from conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis highlighted the need for both national and EU policymakers to provide sufferers with "better opportunities within Europe".

Increasing awareness, workplace adaptations and early diagnosis can help lessen the impact of neurodegenerative diseases, as well as reducing healthcare costs, allowing people to, "remain as active as possible in the workplace", said Werthmann.

The three co-organisers of the event, the European multiple sclerosis platform, Alzheimer Europe and the European parkinson’s disease association outlined four key actions that they believe will help people remain employed:

  • raising awareness through education and training of employers and colleagues
  • adapting social legislation to offer better protection
  • work place adaptations – allowing people to work with their remaining competencies
  • early access to diagnosis and treatment that would allow people to remain professionally active for longer

More information available at the link below:

Leading Portuguese experts and policy makers met in Lisbon on July 11th to discuss future research directions and collaborations for neurodegeneration research

Portuguese representatives from the JPND Management Board recently organised a meeting on July 11th 2013 in Lisbon, to discuss implementation of the JPND Strategic Research Agenda.

The meeting was organised by FCT (Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia), to discuss future research directions and collaborations among relevant national stakeholders including:

  • Ministry of Health and Ministry of Science, PT
  • Groups responsible for planning national strategies related to neurodegenerative diseases (ND)
  • Groups involved in ND-related projects such as "Mapping Dementia in Portugal"
  • Groups supporting social activities dedicated to Alzheimer’s Disease 
  • Stakeholder organizations representing patients, industry, research centers & universities 
  • Other relevant pan-European research initiatives (SHARE-ERIC, EIP-AHA and AAL)

A scientific session in the afternoon involved Portuguese researchers from successfully-funded JPND consortia as well as representatives from relevant national research networks.

JPND was representated at the meeting by Management Board member Maria dos Anjos Macedo.

The draft programme for the meeting (in English and Portuguese) is available for download at the link below:

Presentations delivered at the event will be available shortly on the FCT website link below: 

Across a variety of neurodegenerative diseases, cerebrovascular disease affecting circulation of blood in the brain was significantly associated with dementia.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania contend that people already exhibiting clinical features of Alzheimer’s disease and other memory impairments may benefit from effective therapies currently available to reduce vascular problems.

Thus, early management of vascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, and adopting a ‘heart healthy’ diet as well as exercise and other lifestyles in midlife may delay or prevent the onset of dementia due to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

More information available at the link below: 

Four different biomarkers uncovered that characterize the non-genetic form of the disease

Although several genetic ALS mutations have been identified, they only apply to a small number of cases. The ongoing challenge is to identify the mechanisms behind the non-genetic form of the disease and draw useful comparisons with the genetic forms.

Now, using samples of stem cells derived from the bone marrow of non-genetic ALS patients, Prof. Miguel Weil of Tel Aviv University’s Laboratory for Neurodegenerative Diseases and Personalized Medicine in the Department of Cell Research and Immunology and his team of researchers have uncovered four different biomarkers that characterize the non-genetic form of the disease.

Each sample shows similar biological abnormalities to four specific genes, and further research could reveal additional commonalities. "Because these genes and their functions are already known, they give us a specific direction for research into non-genetic ALS diagnostics and therapeutics," Prof. Weil says. His initial findings were reported in the journal Disease Markers.

The Alzheimer’s Society UK led a Dementia Priority Setting Partnership with the James Lind Alliance to identify some of the priorities for dementia research.

Through extensive engagement with people with dementia and their carers, health and social care practitioners, and organisations that represent these groups, over 4,000 questions on the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care of dementia have been whittled down to a top 10 list:

  1. What are the most effective components of care that keep a person with dementia as independent as they can be at all stages of the disease in all care settings?
  2. How can the best ways to care for people with dementia, including results from research findings, be effectively disseminated and implemented into care practice?
  3. What is the impact of an early diagnosis of dementia and how can primary care support a more effective route to diagnosis?
  4. What non-pharmacological and/or pharmacological (drug) interventions are most effective for managing challenging behaviour in people with dementia?
  5. What is the best way to care for people with dementia in a hospital setting when they have acute health care needs?
  6. What are the most effective ways to encourage people with dementia to eat, drink and maintain nutritional intake?
  7. What are the most effective ways of supporting carers of people with dementia living at home?
  8. What is the best way to care for people with advanced dementia (with or without other illnesses) at the end of life?
  9. When is the optimal time to move a person with dementia into a care home setting and how can the standard of care be improved?
  10. What are the most effective design features for producing dementia friendly environments at both the housing and neighbourhood levels?

More information available at the link below:

Consultation held on 20-21 June 2013 at Oxford University, UK in collaboration with the Global Coalition on Aging.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Oxford University and the Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA) concluded on Friday, 21 June 2013 a one-day expert consultation on "Unlocking Global Collaboration to Accelerate Innovation for Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia”.

Aimed at providing input to the OECD action agenda for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, the consultation brought together the highest level of global experts across health, economics, public policy, business, biotechnology and beyond.

JPND was represented on the conference programme by Prof. Martin Rossor, Vice-Chair of the JPND Scientific Advisory Board who presented in the session entitled “From Bench to Bedside: meeting the needs of patients, academia , and industry”.

The consultation’s timing is aligned with UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent recognition that dementia is fast becoming the biggest pressure on care systems around the world. “That’s why we’re using the G8 to bring together health ministers, clinical researchers and healthcare companies. “he said “If the brightest minds are working together on this then we’ve got a greater chance of improving treatments and finding scientific breakthroughs. I’ve said before that we need an all-out fight-back against dementia that cuts across society. Now we need to cut across borders and spearhead an international approach that could really make a difference.”

“The global scale of the pending healthcare-economic crisis mandates a bold forward looking action plan to harmonize a multi-nation attack on the problem," noted Zaven Khachaturian, recognized at the meeting as the ‘Chief Architect’ of Alzheimer & Brain Aging research in the United States, now the President of the Campaign to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease by 2020. He indicated the urgent need for a "multinational strategic goal for reducing the prevalence of Alzheimer’s and other chronic brain disorders by 50 percent within a decade" – thus urging the OECD to "identify the framework conditions to accelerate multi-national collaborative R&D."

George Vradenburg, Chairman of USAgainstAlzheimer’s and convener of the Global CEO Initiative on Alzheimer’s, called for new attention, resources, commitment and collaboration to defeat Alzheimer’s disease. In his keynote speech, coined "The Oxford Accord," he called for G8 leadership equivalent to the G8 Summit that created the HIV/AIDS Global Fund.

Consultation experts presented their views for proactive public policy and an OECD role in supporting actions to: promote broad-based partnerships; identify incentives, frameworks and infrastructures for enhanced international data sharing; leverage big data as strategies to advance our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease, improve care, promote global exchange of good practice and move toward cure and even prevention.

Click here or at the link below for the conference programme and presentations.  The JPND presentation is available here or at the second link below: