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The University of Southampton

Faculty of Medicine researchers start new dementia study

Published: 30 November 2022
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Faculty of Medicine researchers are to begin a new study to assess how the immune system plays a part in a common type of dementia.

Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) affects around 100,000 people in the UK. This progressive disease can lead to both common dementia symptoms like memory loss and confusion, as well as other symptoms, like visual hallucinations.

The causes of DLB are not completely understood but it is expected that the immune system plays an important role, as it does with Alzheimer’s disease.

In partnership with Newcastle University, researchers at the University of Southampton will lead a new study that will assess how the immune system in DLB affects how the disease progresses.

Funded by the Lewy Body Society, the trial will examine the blood of 80 volunteers (40 people with DLB and 40 people without) for changes to their immune system once every year for three years. It will also test their memory and record whether they experience any events that could activate their immune system, such as infections.

Dr Jay Amin, Associate Professor in Psychiatry of Older Age, who will lead the study, said: “Sadly there's currently no cure for dementia with Lewy bodies or any treatment that will slow it down. We hope our study will give valuable insight into how symptoms progress and importantly the speed that they worsen. This will hopefully enable clinicians to provide clearer details of what patients and their families can expect so they are better prepared. 

“Identifying how the immune system changes in DLB could also help the development of new treatments that could dampen parts of the immune system that we show to be most harmful in DLB.”

Jacqui Cannon, Chief Executive, The Lewy Body Society, said: “The UK is at the forefront of global efforts to better understand Lewy body dementia and our latest grant round has funded four studies, all of which involve new techniques and innovative research methods, to help extend that knowledge further. In a very strong field of applicants, this study, along with three others, stood out to our independent assessors as making the biggest difference to our mission to improve the diagnosis and treatment of Lewy body dementia. Dr Jay Amin has already proven himself as one of the key researchers of Lewy body dementia, and we look forward to seeing the results of his latest study." 

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