Barts Charity (London, UK) has awarded £1.5m to create the Centre for Preventive Neurology, the first centre of its kind in the UK. The new centre, led by Jack Cuzick (Wolfson Institute, UK) and Gavin Giovannoni (Queen Mary University of London, UK), will research the prevention of brain and nervous system disorders, with a particular emphasis on dementia, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Despite advances in the use of animal models to study these diseases, there are currently no proven disease-modifying treatments in humans.
Cuzick explained the need for such a centre: “Brain diseases such as dementia are among the greatest public health challenges of the 21st century. By spotting them early, we may be able to prevent or delay them and help people age more healthily.”
Current statistics suggest that there are 800,000 people living in the UK with dementia, with 11% of deaths in the UK in 2015 being caused by dementia. In addition, there are estimated to be 100,000 people affected by multiple sclerosis in the UK and the number of people with Parkinson’s is set to rise to 162,000 by 2020.
This latest funding will allow staff at the Centre to firstly investigate methods to identify those at high risk of developing a condition, and secondly to provide initial data to demonstrate that simple treatments can delay onset of the disease. Examples of these simple treatments include aspirin for vascular dementia, nicotine patches for Parkinson’s disease, and Esptein–Barr virus vaccination for multiple sclerosis.
Giovannoni commented: “There is a big unmet need for preventive neurology. Prevention is central to health issues such as cancer and heart disease and now we’re extending this approach to conditions affecting the brain and nervous system.”
Fiona Miller Smith (Barts Charity) explained why this funding is so important: “We’re committed to investing in projects like these at Queen Mary University of London’s School of Medicine and Dentistry that have the potential to make a significant step change in healthcare. The number of people affected by these neurodegenerative diseases in the UK is enormous and the opportunity to implement preventive measures in their onset, with potential global health significance, is an exciting prospect of which we’re proud to be an early funder.”
Steve Thornton (Barts Charity) added: “This is an incredibly important area of research in clinical practice. Given the aging population, such conditions are set to increase in frequency and the important work done by the team will help ensure that we can prevent and appropriately treat these disabling conditions.”