Tackling the global health challenge of dementia

With your support, we believe our dual approach of focussing on dementia and dementia care will shed light on new treatments and help people live better with the disease.

Exeter is fast becoming recognised for world-class dementia research. Our pioneering work in dementia and ageing is multi-faceted in its approach. Our basic research includes the identification of biological and genetic aspects associated with how and why we develop dementia with a view to developing new treatments and preventions.

Our applied research puts people at its heart, involving older people, healthcare workers, carers and care providers in identifying issues that research must address and performing research to deliver better care.

Our work is closing a recognised gap in translating basic research and new discoveries into commercially viable treatments that can make a real difference to health outcomes. We focus on discovering new, effective treatments and repositioning existing drugs to solve additional problems.

Up to two thirds of people with Alzheimer’s disease experience psychotic episodes, yet the distressing symptom is still widely under-recognised and is challenging to treat. Current antipsychotic treatments have little impact on alleviating symptoms, but can have devastating side effects, leading to more than 1,600 unnecessary strokes and 1,800 unnecessary deaths in the UK every year. Professor Clive Ballard, Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter Medical School, has played a key role in the development of a novel anti-psychotic which doesn’t have the side effects of other medications in patients with psychosis related to Parkinson’s. It has been approved for use in the US and is now being extensively tested for use in Europe.

We also know that a wide range of lifestyle factors can influence the risk of developing dementia. Our research is helping to establish how the choices we make and the activities we engage in can help to maintain cognitive health.

An international team, led by Exeter’s Senior Research Fellow Dr David Llewellyn, found that people severely deficient in Vitamin D were more than twice as likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s. Clinical trials are now needed to establish whether the link is causal and eating foods such as oily fish or taking vitamin D supplements can delay or even prevent the onset of the diseases. 

Online platforms provide a tremendous opportunity to deliver effective prevention to millions of people in a very cost-effective way. The PROTECT Study is an exciting new approach to research into brain health in older adults, which aims to understand how the brain ages and how we might reduce the risk of dementia and mental health issues in later life. 

With 44 million cases worldwide – a number expected to triple by 2050 - dementia is one of the greatest health challenges of our time. Your support will help us to increase the impact of Exeter’s Medical School, accelerating discovery in the risks, diagnosis and care of people with dementia – and developing new treatments and preventions.

Will you help us to tackle the global challenge of dementia?