“Our objective is to make it possible to delay the onset and progression of dementia. This requires precise, early diagnosis,” says Tormod Fladby, Professor of Neurology at Oslo University Hospital.
Many countries involved
Professor Fladby heads the Norwegian segment of the project. Together with researchers from 20 other European countries, the Norwegians are working to refine the development of biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Postponing dementia: “Our objective is to make it possible to delay the onset and progression of dementia,” summarises Tormod Fladby. He is working on biomarkers from blood and cerebrospinal fluid to learn how these may provide evidence of pre-dementia stages and progression of Alzheimer’s disease, as measured by neuropsychological changes and MRI and PET scans. (Photo: Siv Haugan)
Professor Fladby touts the advantages of this type of large-scale collaboration: “This gives us larger standardised patient populations, and all the researchers involved are using the same criteria throughout the entire joint project. This yields faster, more reliable conclusions than if we each had to work independently. Pulling together can make a huge difference!”
Treatment and care are demanding
“Medical treatment and care for dementia patients are very resource-intensive. So far there isn’t much available to help us to slow the progression of this group of diseases. But there are long interim phases before patients reach the stage of being greatly weakened and demented – which increases the chance of treatment before the severe damage occurs.”
“Early, precise diagnosis would enhance our understanding of disease progression before the dementia phase. If we could delay the onset of dementia diseases by five years, their incidence would be halved.”
This is a challenge that politicians as well as researchers in Europe are clearly concerned about. According to Professor Fladby, attention is being focused on diagnostics and the development of diagnostic methods, and there is a willingness to invest.
Demanding and rewarding
“Multinational collaboration like this unquestionably poses some difficult challenges. Routines, practices and available technology can vary widely between institutions and countries. But the positive outcomes and ripple effects are endlessly greater.”
Pofessor Fladby himself is working on biomarkers from blood and cerebrospinal fluid to learn how these may provide evidence of pre-dementia stages and progression of Alzheimer’s disease, as measured by neuropsychological changes and MRI and PET scans.
EU Joint Programming Initiative
The project Biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease is a collaboration between neuroscience research groups specialising in nurology, psychiatry and geriatrics. Norwegian research groups from Tromsø, Bodø, Trondheim, Bergen, Stavanger and Oslo are involved.
The project was awarded funding under the very first call for proposals issued by the EU Joint Programme - Neurodegenerative Disease Research (JPND), which is a Joint Programming Initiative (JPI).