International project launched to combat dementia

International project launched to combat dementia

Three leading organisations from around the world have launched a collaborative effort to develop treatments for brain conditions such as Alzheimer's.

Known as MEND, or MEchanisms of cellular death in NeuroDegeneration, the initiative will draw on a fund of $1.25 million (£820,000) for targeted research into brain diseases that cause dementia.

The focus of the research will be the causes of brain cell death, which plays a key role in Alzheimer's, frontotemporal dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies.

A range of debilitating symptoms present in these conditions, including memory loss, difficulty with language, visual hallucinations or problems with movement, are all associated with the death of brain cells, including neurons and glia.

While significant advances have been made in the understanding of these diseases in recent years, there are still gaps in scientists' knowledge.

Discovering the mechanisms behind cell death could lead to new treatments for the conditions.

Dr Eric Karran, director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "Dementia is a global problem and its solutions will require global collaboration. 

"As charities dedicated to improving people's lives we have an important role to play in this challenge, and [we are] delighted to be joining forces with other leading organisations from across the world in this united effort."

MEND is open to applications from scientists around the globe, and researchers will be encouraged to collaborate on projects, sharing knowledge and resources in order to speed up progress.

It is hoped the study will answer fundamental questions about neurodegenerative conditions, such as whether the underlying mechanisms that cause cell death differ from one disease to another.

According to Alzheimer's Disease International: World Alzheimer Report 2014, 44 million people are living with dementia worldwide. The number is set to almost double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050.

Read more about Barchester's dementia care homes.