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The University of Southampton
Institute for Life SciencesHealth & Medicine

Ageing and Dementia

The UK’s population is living longer, and this presents new health care challenges. People are usually living their later years with more than one age-related health conditions, such as dementia, Parkinson’s Disease and stroke.  Our researchers across Medicine, Biological Sciences, Gerontology, Social Sciences and Health Sciences work together to examine ageing and dementia with a translational approach that will impact on policy and clinical and professional practice.

Image credit: Prof Peter JS Smith

Our interdisciplinary scientists study ageing and dementia in a number of ways: from the biological mechanisms underlying ageing and disease through to finding new ways of improving healthcare, access to services and the latest technologies.

We are using ground breaking techniques to better understand the causes that underlie the pathology and clinical spectrum of neurodegenerative diseases for which there are currently no effective curative treatments.

We are working to provide better evidence about the complex social, psychological, biological implications of ageing and to design new interventions that help people with dementia and other age-related conditions to manage their health and to live their lives to the fullest extent possible.

As people age, self-management of health often means managing multiple conditions, requiring a great deal of work by the patient and their families and carers, such as multiple hospital appointments. Our research helps understand the impact of that burden on individual patient experiences, and on outcomes such as poor treatment uptake or preventable use of expensive hospital care.  We are investigating and creating models of care that integrate health systems and services, promoting quality of life  and supporting people and their families to live their lives.

Southampton is internationally recognised for its breadth of interdisciplinary ageing and dementia research, which has seen a large expansion over the last five to 10 years. We have launched an Alzheimer’s Society Doctoral Training Centre and National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (NIHR CLAHRC Wessex), which focuses on ageing and dementia as well as other pressing healthcare challenges.

 

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Key Specialisms at Southampton

Ageing, Alzheimer’s, Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia, Healthcare, Interdisciplinary, Research, Southampton 

Please see a selection of postgraduate courses related to this subject area below. 

For the full range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses at the University of Southampton, please visit our courses webpages https://www.southampton.ac.uk/courses.page

MSc Gerontology

Gerontology is the study of ageing at the individual and societal levels.

MSc Global Health

MSc in Global Health is a research-led, inter- and multi-disciplinary degree programme.

MSc Public Health

The masters programme offers all aspects of public health with optional pathways specialising in nutrition, intelligence and global health

MRes StemCells Development & Regenerative Medicine

The MRes offers exciting opportunities to develop advanced scientific, research and transferable skills required to become an independent researcher in Stem Cells, Development & Regenerative Medicine.

MSc Health Sciences

Our experienced team will work with you to develop a bespoke pathway to meet your current needs and future ambitions.

PhD Programme in Biomedical Research

We are one of the UK's leading centres for biomedical research and offer a range of postgraduate opportunities in both basic and clinical science.

DM Programme in Biomedical Research

Our part-time Doctor of Medicine degree programmes are aimed at students with a clinical background, who hold a medical qualification and are employed in a hospital or institution.

CLAHRC – Ageing and Dementia theme

Our researchers are playing a key role in the Ageing and Dementia theme of the National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (NIHR CLAHRC Wessex). Set up to improve the health of the people of the Wessex region, the NIHR CLAHRC aims to achieve a step change in the integration and pathways of care for people with long-term conditions. Through interdisciplinary projects that create more efficient and appropriate health care, our researchers aim to generate evidence to help reduce admissions and re-admissions to hospital.

Our teams are examining how complex needs are experienced by frail, older people and those with dementia, with a view to being able to identify those who are at a higher risk of a poor outcome more efficiently and provide new ways of helping them lead a healthier life in and out of hospital. They also work to improve services that aid accurate and speedy diagnoses to help with forward planning.  Wessex CLAHRC projects include:

  • Evaluating the use of an imaging technique called HMPAO-SPECT imaging, which is widely available in the UK to support diagnosis of dementia, but not fully utilised, to better identify patterns of brain dysfunction relevant to diagnosis and prognosis and evaluate the impact of reporting on clinician diagnostic confidence.
  • Evaluating the feasibility and acceptability of using trained volunteers to help with mealtimes and increasing physical activity of older hospital inpatients. 
  • Measuring the impact of young-onset dementia on people and their families.
  • Developing an intervention to help older people recovering from cancer alongside other health conditions.

https://www.clahrc-wessex.nihr.ac.uk/ageing-and-dementia

The role of inflammation in neurodegenerative diseases

Scientists in Southampton are at the forefront of groundbreaking research into the role of the immune system in chronic neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Prion and Alzheimer’s Disease. Our research has shown that inflammation plays a pivotal role in the progression of such diseases.

Our work mainly focuses on cells called microglia: the main immune cells of the brain. When too many of these cells are produced, inflammation is caused in the brain, accelerating the disease’s progression. Our studies have shown that the control of microglial numbers in models of Prion, Alzheimer’s Disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is regulated by the activation of the Colony Stimulating Factor 1 Receptor (CSF1R).  Inhibiting CSF1R leads to a diminished proliferation of microglia and improves the behavioural and neuropathological symptoms of chronic neurodegeneration.

Our multidisciplinary scientists have expanded their research under the Dementia Consortium, a collaboration between Alzheimer’s Research UK, LifeArc and pharmaceutical companies Eisai, Lilly and AbbVie, with the aim of designing and testing better and more selective inhibitors for CSF1R. The team has also been part of the Wellcome Trust Neuroimmunology of Mood and Alzheimer’s Disease Consortium (NIMA). We have investigated whether commercially available drugs that are licensed for other diseases, could be used to target brain inflammation and therefore be repurposed for use against Alzheimer’s. As a result of this collaboration, an inhibitor to block microglial proliferation will soon be tested in a phase 1b study in patients with mild cognitive impairment.

Contact: Dr Diego Gomez-Nicola

Safer Walking

Of the half a million people in the UK with dementia who live in their own homes, more than 40 per cent will get lost at some point, and about 25,000 will get lost repeatedly, doubling their risk of admission to long-term care.  Finding cost-effective and acceptable ways for people with dementia to stay safe and in control over their lives is a policy priority across the UK.

Our researchers have been working in partnership with people with dementia, their family cares, the Alzheimer’s Society, local authorities, as well the police and healthcare professionals to explore the need and impact of GPS ‘location’ trackers on people’s lives.

Through a qualitative research project, funded by the Alzheimer’s Society, we found that if people with dementia have access GPS ‘location’ trackers – at a time when they are able to appreciate the benefits and consequences of carrying the device, and at a time that will allow them to get used to using the device, it becomes a habit, and lives could be saved.

GPS ‘location’ technologies were generally viewed as an acceptable adaptation to aid location for people with dementia, their family caregivers and the police.

Contact: Dr Ruth Bartlett

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