α-Synuclein biopsy project -LBS Funded Project

skin biopsy foralfa synuclein testing

α-Synuclein biopsy project

Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is the second most common type of neurodegenerative dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. It is associated with characteristic features such as the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, visual hallucinations and fluctuating cognitive impairment. The diagnosis of DLB can be difficult. Currently there is a scan that helps to diagnose DLB, but it is negative in around 1 in 5 people who have DLB. In the earliest stages of the disease, this scan may be less useful.

DLB and Parkinson’s disease (PD) are part of a group of illnesses called Lewy body disorders. These are cause by deposition of a protein called α-synuclein in the brain. α-synuclein is also found in other parts of the body, such as the nerves in the skin and gut.

Identifying α-synuclein in areas outside the brain may help in the diagnosis of DLB and PD. Earlier diagnosis could be possible because α-synuclein may be present in these areas before it is present in the brain. Recently, a study used a new technique to reliably identify α-synuclein in the skin of people with PD using a test called punch biopsy. The punch biopsy has been described as a safe and minimally invasive technique by the European Federation of Neurological Societies.

The Punch Biopsy
The sample is taken from arm or leg

A local anaesthetic is used to numb the skin. This stings a bit, but the skin should then be numb for the procedure.

A small sample is taken as shown in the diagram. The actual width of the sample taken is the same as this dot:

A single suture may be inserted at the site. This will be removed a few days later by the study team.

We would like to test if α-synuclein can be found in the skin of people with DLB. If α-synuclein is found to be present in DLB, punch biopsies may be a useful tool in the diagnosis of DLB, particularly in the earliest stages of the disease.

Participants will already have a diagnosis of DLB or AD or will be healthy control subjects. The procedure will not benefit them directly. The aim of the study is to see if punch biopsies could be used to help diagnose DLB in the future.

Dementia gets 13 times less research than cancer

Alastair Gray of the Health Economics Research Centre at Oxford University said more needed to be done: ‘Research into the treatment and prevention of dementia remains under-funded when compared with the economic and personal impact these conditions have.’ Dementia research is given 13 times less funding than cancer even though the cost to society is far greater, Oxford University has found. To see the full article please click the link.

Scheme to improve dementia research - The scheme has been developed as part of the Prime Minister's Challenge on Dementia 2020

A new scheme that makes it easier for people to take part in dementia research launches today.
It is hoped the new scheme, which allows anyone who wants to take part in studies to register online or over the phone, will boost much-needed participation in research into the condition, which affects more than 850,000 people in the UK.
The scheme has been developed as part of the Prime Minister's Challenge on Dementia 2020, which was announced on Saturday to tackle the ever-growing problem.
David Cameron said more than £300 million is to be spent by the Government on research while all NHS staff will have to undergo training in the condition.
A recent poll found that almost two thirds (62%) of the public would be willing to take part in dementia research, but more than four out of five (62%) did not know how to volunteer.
The article is entitled: 'Scheme to improve dementia research'' MailOnline website.

Newcastle University to lead research into distressing symptoms of dementia

The Alzheimer’s Society has awarded funding to Newcastle University to establish a new Doctoral Training Centre to study the symptoms of a particularly distressing form of dementia.
The award is one of eight such research centres opening across the UK, totaling a new investment of £5 million to support 55 PhD students and clinical research fellows in dementia research.
The new centre, led by Professor Alan Thomas (pictured) will focus on a Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB) which is second to Alzheimer’s Disease as the most common form of late onset dementia and accounts for up to 15 per cent of all dementia cases.

The article is entitled: 'Newcastle University to lead research into distressing symptoms of dementia'' Newcastle University website.

Listen to Dr John-Paul Taylor discuss a Lewy Body Dementia Study

Dr John-Paul Taylor is a Wellcome Trust Intermediate Clinical Fellow at the Institute for Ageing, which forms part of the University of Newcastle. His research is focused on Lewy body dementia.
The article is entitled: 'Listen to Dr John-Paul Taylor discuss a Lewy Body Dementia Study"

John-Paul is a member of The Lewy Body Society SAC (Specialist Advisory Committee).

New Research funded by the Lewy Body Society

The Lewy Body Society is very pleased and proud to announce that it is now funding a 3 year clinical research fellowship to Dr Jay Amin at Southampton University. Dr Amin is investigating the role of systemic and central inflammation in Dementia with Lewy bodies.

Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB) accounts for up to a quarter of all cases of Dementia in the elderly. It has many similarities to Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) but patients with the disease often have disturbing hallucinations and a variable memory state. These symptoms make it very hard to diagnose and to tell apart from the confusion that some elderly people get when they have an infection. We still know very little about why people get AD, and even less about DLB. We want to find out whether the immune system is altered in DLB compared to AD and healthy volunteers. If we do find a difference we may be able to improve diagnostic accuracy and also potentially help develop new treatments for DLB that dampen down the immune response.

There is increasing evidence that the brain’s immune response could be a major factor in Alzheimer’s disease and Dr Amin’s research is to find out whether inflammation could also be associated with particular features of DLB.

Dr Amin will study brain tissue to look for inflammation and blood samples from people with and without DLB, looking for molecular changes that could indicate inflammation . He will also treat patients as part of his clinical work.

The project was granted and is being administered by Alzheimer’s Research UK and funded by the Society. Run completely by volunteers, the LBS does not have the capability to administer a major research project without engaging paid staff. We are committed to spending as little as possible on admin so that we can channel most of our donations (approximately 96%) to support research and raise awareness of DLB. Alzheimer’s Research UK is the oldest dementia research charity in the country and we are delighted to be collaborating with it.

For more about Alzheimer’s Research UK, which is independent from and not to be confused with the Alzheimer’s Society, please see their excellent website

Updated September 2015


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