Dementia Research & Clinical Trials in Sheffield
The Sheffield Team offers people affected by Dementia a clinical service, access to clinical trials and research projects.
There are a large number of research projects taking place, this page summarises clinical projects and the scientific projects that patients, carers and family members can get involved in. For more information on the full scope of our research please visit the Sheffield Institute for Translational Research (SITraN) website.
It is increasingly recognised that it is important to support people with dementia to develop ways of manging their condition, drawing upon the ideas of self-management. However there is limited evidence on how to do this. Consequently the Journeying through Dementia randomised controlled trial has been set up to test the effectiveness of a self-management intervention which draws upon occupational therapy principles called Journeying through Dementia. This consists of 12 group sessions and 4 individual sessions which address a variety of topics including memory techniques, healthy living and reengaging with activities. People with dementia can also involve a family member or friend in the study, but this is not essential.
The trial will recruit 486 people who are in the early stages of dementia. They will be randomised to receive usual care or usual care plus the Journeying through Dementia intervention. Outcome measures will be collected from participants for up to a year.
Existing treatments only temporarily treat specific imbalances in the brain but as yet there is no cure for Alzheimers Disease. Losartan is a well-tolerated blood pressure drug that blocks a chemical pathway called angiotensin II which prevents the release of vital memory chemicals in the brain. People who have previously taken losartan, have lower risk of developing Alzheimers Disease compared to other blood pressure drugs. These drugs may also slow the rate of deterioration in patients with Alzheimer’s. This clinical trial will investigate if losartan could complement current treatments.
Maintaining both every day and interesting pleasurable activities can be difficult for people with dementia as well as for those who support them. Occupational therapists assist people to continue to participate in activities despite the difficulties that they might be experiencing.
VALID is a research study involving people with dementia, and the people who support them (a supporter could be a family member, friend or neighbour). We are looking at the possible benefits of a programme of occupational therapy for people who have been diagnosed with dementia and those who regularly support them.
As we get older we experience various changes in memory and other abilities which can affect our well-being and quality of life. It is very important for people to be able to maintain well-being and to live well as things change in later life. The IDEAL project will investigate what helps people to live well and what makes it difficult to live well in this situation. The results will be used to encourage greater awareness of the needs of older people, and will help to improve health and social care and to create more supportive communities. (Currently not recruiting)
Memory, attention and other abilities may be impaired by some of the brain diseases that affect ageing people. Healthy individuals belonging to different genders, age-groups, and having different levels of education can produce widely varying results on psychometric tests. Establishing normal variation, therefore, is a basic requirement for valid ageing research.
We intend to study how differences in gender, age-group, and education result in different levels of performance on a number of psychometric tasks normally used in the assessment of patients with cognitive impairment. We are also interested in the effect of ageing over time on task performance in different tests. (Currently not recruiting)
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) also known as Motor Neurone Disease and Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) are two brain diseases. ALS is a physically disabling neurodegenerative condition due to physical weakening of the muscles, whereas FTD affects behavioural, reasoning and judgement of an individual. It is known that some people with ALS develop FTD and vice versa, indicating a link between the two conditions.
The link, as to why some people with ALS develop FTD and vice versa, whereas others do not, is not fully understood. The above study therefore aims to improve the understanding of the relationship between patients with FTD/ALS and those with FTD by measuring changes in their behaviour, reasoning and judgement.
Some patients with memory problems go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease. An accurate diagnosis of Alzheimers is crucial in order to provide support for people with dementia and their carers. There is no accurate test currently available. Brain scans can exclude some causes of memory problems. We can also examine is how well the brain is connected using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans. We plan to use electroencephalography (EEG) to measure brain connectivity. The University of Sheffield has developed new techniques using EEG to examine brain connectivity. This research will study EEG to see if changes in brain connectivity can help make a diagnosis at an early stage. EEG is more ‘patient-friendly’ than MRI as it only requires electrodes (like stickers) to be placed on the scalp to measure electrical activity.
The Sheffield Team are carrying out basic research to develop new treatments for Dementia and have been involved in a number of major clinical trials. We are always happy to keep people informed about possible new trials and do our best to recruit as many patients as possible. You can gain further information about the trials from the clinical staff.
In Alzheimer’s disease (AD) there is increasing evidence that the supporting cells of the brain (Astrocytes) are involved in the damage which occurs in AD. Astrocytes provide energy and maintain the connections between nerve cells allowing them to pass information from one to another. How information is passed between nerve cells is thought to underlie the formation of memories. Understanding how astrocytes are affected by AD may help us understand why people develop the condition.
Astrocytes pass many substances to nerve cells that they need to produce energy and keep them healthy. These substances include cholesterol and lactate, both vital for maintaining cell function. It is possible that astrocytes in the AD brain don’t work as well as astrocytes in a normal brain. This might mean that they develop problems in the passage of substances to the nerve cells. Leading to difficulties in forming memories.
It is hazardous to remove astrocytes from the living brain, therefore this projects aims to use a new technology that allows us to transform skin cells, so called fibroblasts, into astrocytes, and investigate whether the astrocytes of people with AD work as well, or produce the same amount of substances, as astrocytes in people without AD. This project involves the removal of a small amount of skin from a patients arm, which is then used to create the brain cells.
Cardiff University School of Medicine have been collecting blood samples and interviewing people to try and understand more about how certain genes affect the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease since 2004. So far over 3000 people have helped and as a result they have been successful in finding many previously unknown genes that are involved in Alzheimer’s disease. Although they have begun to understand more about how genetics affect the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, they know there are more genes to find and much more to understand about how these genes work which is why they are conducting this research.
They are now inviting individuals with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease to help with this research. This will help to search for environmental, biological and genetic factors that influence the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.
Human tissue is vital for dementia research but is currently in short supply and is not covered in standard organ donation schemes. With the support of Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK, Brains for Dementia Research was set up in 2007 to establish a network of brain bank facilities across England and Wales.
It is now a ‘gold standard’ for brain tissue banking, linking six leading centres (based in London, Oxford, Newcastle, Bristol, Manchester and Cardiff). In each bank, people with mild cognitive impairment or a diagnosis of dementia, and healthy participants, are supported to donate their brain by specialist research nurses.
This initiative is unique from other brain banks, as the memory, thinking and behaviour of each prospective donor are monitored throughout their later life through regular assessments. This provides researchers with a complete medical history to accompany the donated brain tissue, allowing them to see how brain changes correlate with symptoms. (Currently not recruiting)
We are funded by the Sheffield Institute Foundation (www.sifoundation.com), Sheffield Charitable Trust Fund and many other organisations/charities. The Sheffield Team are committed to discovering more about Dementia and looking for new treatments.
If you are interested in participating in any of these research projects, your clinical care team and Emily King can provide more details (email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
You can also get involved with the research process by joining the South Yorkshire Dementia Research Advisory Group, a committee of patients, carers and family members who inform and advise researchers at SITraN. The group aims to get your views included in our research. For more information click here.
Further information on research being carried at Sheffield is available on the SITraN website.
Alzheimer's Research UK also provides a good source of information on research.