New dementia research partnership

Released On 20th Nov 2023

New dementia research partnership

A new partnership between the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and the UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI) has been announced. The partnership sets out to establish the UK’s first research centre dedicated to finding new treatments to prevent, halt and ultimately find cures for vascular dementia.

The centre will be the UK’s flagship investment for vascular dementia research, uniting leading researchers from around the world under a single virtual ‘roof’.

The BHF will invest £7.5m over the next five years so the centre can drive forward pioneering research and the UK DRI will contribute £1.5m as well as enable access to its technology and research centres.

The combination of over 60 years of BHF breakthroughs in heart and circulatory diseases and the neurobiological resources provided by the UK DRI, aims to transform the research landscape for this condition.

Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia, affecting around 150,000 people in the UK. It can happen after a stroke, or more gradually if the small blood vessels in the brain work less well. This can affect the blood flow reducing the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the brain cells that they need to work properly. This causes brain cells in the affected areas to stop working properly and eventually to die.

The symptoms can be gradual and include difficulty working out complicated problems, difficulty concentrating, and poor memory, which can fluctuate and gradually worsen over time.

While it’s possible to modify risk factors for vascular dementia, such as high blood pressure, there are no effective treatments so far that can halt or reverse its progression, and there is no cure. With the number of people living with vascular dementia in the UK set to more than double by 2050, reaching 350,000, the centre aims to play a pivotal role in tackling this condition head on.

The partnership builds on the UK DRI’s standing as a leading research institute dedicated to studying a range of neurodegenerative diseases, including vascular dementia. Scientists at the UK DRI are studying all areas of dementia, focusing on understanding the underlying causes of these diseases, including how vascular dysfunction leads to neurodegeneration. The partnership with the BHF will aim to turbo-charge vascular dementia research – an area that is currently underfunded.

Professor Siddharthan Chandran, UK DRI Director, said, 'We’re delighted to be partnering with the BHF to establish the UK’s first pan-national research centre devoted solely to advancing our understanding of vascular dementia. The condition accounts for between 15-30% of all cases of dementia, but it has not received nearly the same level of research attention and is vastly underfunded, with few clinical trials ongoing.

'The UK DRI is already working at the forefront of dementia research, and this new partnership is a fantastic opportunity to consolidate and build upon our progress to uncover innovative new treatments, tools and diagnostics.

'The new collaboration represents a major step forward in our efforts to address the knowledge gap in vascular dementia. With the BHF’s wealth of experience in vascular research and our expertise in dementia, I am confident that discoveries made at the new centre will dramatically improve clinical care and quality of life for the millions of people around the world affected by vascular dementia.'

With BHF’s support, UK DRI will now launch an international search for a vascular dementia researcher to lead the new centre as the Director, and four further group leaders to join three existing group leaders in the UK DRI working on vascular dementia. The new team will partner with many others, both within and beyond the UK DRI, to advance this urgent work.

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