CHRISTMAS can be difficult for those struggling with Alzheimer’s disease. But Manchester seems to be at the forefront of improving the lives of those affected during the festive period by introducing a new ‘Santa Forgot’ campaign. Morgan Driver spoke to Dr David Brough from the University of Manchester on his ground-breaking research that could change the way we treat the symptoms of the disease.

Christmas is a time for family, celebration and making lasting memories. But for those living with Alzheimer’s disease, the festive period can be bittersweet, and a cause for stress and frustration. Parties and large gatherings can cause over-stimulation, agitation and confusion for those affected, and in turn, it can be difficult for friends and family to enjoy the festivities.

Around 500,000 people in the UK suffer from the disease and there is no known cure to stop the symptoms from worsening over time.

Recently, projects across Manchester have been aimed towards bringing some Christmas cheer back into the lives of those struggling, by encouraging more support for research into the disease. Northern Quarter agency, Reason Digital, worked with Alzheimer’s Research UK on the launch of its newest digital Christmas campaign, #SantaForgot.

The Santa Forgot campaign, which aims to encourage viewers to donate money to vital research into the disease, struck a chord with many, and has been viewed over 500,000 times on Facebook. The video sends the message that “if Santa has a disease, research can find a way to fix it,” suggesting there is hope for those suffering, and highlighting the value of scientific research into the area.

In August of this year, Dr David Brough led his team at the University of Manchester on a vital research project, the results of which suggested that memory loss could be completely reversed by anti-inflammatory drugs, which are most commonly used for period pains.

Now, the team have  designed and planned a trial with a lead clinician, and are now trying to raise the necessary funds through the Santa Forgot campaign in order to run the trial.

” It is a very interesting area of research and could potentially yield life changing breakthroughs, so these are exciting times to be involved.” – Dr Brough

Dr Brough, who has been conducting study on inflammation and how it affects the brain for over 15 years, said that because the drug is already available on the market, it should reach patients in a shorter amount of time than it would if they were to try to develop completely new drugs.

Photo credit- Pixabay
Photo credit- Pixabay

“The costs of getting a new drug into the clinic are enormous, over a billion pounds, and it will take over 10 years. The rate of attrition is also very high with very few drugs actually making it through the pipeline. Drugs that are already available, but that can be re-purposed for a new use, like we are proposing, bypass this problem.” Dr Brough said.

The trial was conducted on transgenic mice that develop symptoms of Alzheimer’s and found that those treated with mefanic acid (the inflammatory drug) saw memory loss completely reverse back to a normal level as seen in mice without the disease.

In theory, if further trials are successful, the drug could be used to slow or even halt the progressive cognitive impairment found in Alzheimer’s sufferers.

Another study this week found that flashing light therapy might be another way to treat those with Alzheimer’s. Researchers in Massachusetts found that flashing lights encourage protective cells to destroy harmful proteins that accumulate in the brains of those with this particular form of dementia.

For now, however, the research has only been conducted on rodents, so it cannot be said for certain that the flashing and flickering lights of the festive season will help to ease the symptoms of the disease for human sufferers.

But there are many ways that family and friends can help to reduce the stress of Christmas this year for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

To donate money to the Santa Forgot campaign, click here.


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