In her runner-up article for our 2017 Max Perutz Science Writing Award Nadine Mirza, a PhD student at the University of Manchester, explains why changes are needed to a routine test for diagnosing dementia, unbiased by language or culture, to prevent incorrect diagnoses.
Have you heard the saying “No ifs ands or buts”? Associated with grannies and teachers, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t. It’s also a saying used in the ACE, a test implemented across the UK to detect dementia. An individual has to read the saying out loud with correct pronunciation. When directly translated into Urdu it loses meaning and becomes gibberish and reading out gibberish isn’t a smooth task. Even a fluent Urdu speaker might fail. But would we attribute that to dementia? Apparently, yes.
Alois Alzheimer first described his eponymous disease a century ago, but there are still no effective treatments. For World Alzheimer’s Day, Professor Bart de Strooper, Director of the UK Dementia Research Institute, asks why that is, and tells us how that might all be about to change.
Professor Bart de Strooper
In the early 1900s, a German neurologist called Alois Alzheimer became obsessed with studying an Asylum patient in her 50s, who had started to show unusual behavioural changes, including short-term memory loss. After her death he examined her brain and discovered structures known as amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles – the hallmarks of what became known as Alzheimer’s disease. So why, when we’ve known about the disease for so long, are there still no treatments? Read more
Research published today, funded by the MRC* and the Alzheimer’s Society’s Drug Discovery programme, has made important progress in the search for new treatments for dementia by re-purposing old drugs. Dr Louise Walker, Research Communications Officer at the Alzheimer’s Society, spoke to the scientist who led the research, Professor Giovanna Mallucci at the MRC Toxicology Unit, to find out more.
Alzheimer’s disease and other degenerative brain diseases are characterised by the presence of misfolded proteins in the brain. These proteins are thought to have toxic effects on brain cells, but exactly how they contribute to dementia still remains a mystery.