MEND initiative aims to assist in finding a cure for dementia

Will focus on pioneering projects to understand the causes of brain cell death

Scientists say they hope to cure dementia within the next 10 years following the creation of a global initiative called MEchanisms of cellular death in NeuroDegeneration (MEND) with a fund of US$1.25m to carry out research into dementia and diseases such as Alzheimer's.

Alzheimer’s Research UK, the Alzheimer’s Association based in the US and the Weston Brain Institute in Canada, whose participation in MEND is funded by Selfridges, will take part in the initiative.

The move is in response to the G7 health leaders’ commitment to significantly increase funding for dementia research, with the goal of identifying a cure or disease-modifying treatment by 2025.

Forty-four million people are living with dementia worldwide, and that number is set to almost double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050, according to Alzheimer's Disease International: World Alzheimer Report 2014.

MEND will focus on pioneering projects to understand the causes of brain cell death, a key goal for research into neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s, frontotemporal dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies. These diseases cause a range of debilitating symptoms, including memory loss, difficulty with language, visual hallucinations or problems with movement, but they all share the same hallmark – the death of brain cells, including neurons and glia.

We now understand more than ever about the diseases that cause dementia, but there are still key questions to be answered

Although in recent years there has been significant progress in scientists’ understanding of these diseases, these advances have also highlighted key areas where there are still gaps in knowledge. The mechanisms underlying brain cell death are yet to be fully understood, and the significance and commonality of this hallmark across multiple brain diseases is a key reason for the MEND initiative.

'Dementia is a global problem and its solutions will require global collaboration. As charities dedicated to improving people’s lives we have an important role to play in this challenge, and Alzheimer’s Research UK is delighted to be joining forces with other leading organisations from across the world in this united effort,' said Eric Karran, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK.

'We now understand more than ever about the diseases that cause dementia, but there are still key questions to be answered to help us learn how to fight them. This challenge will help us gain crucial insight to help drive forward efforts to find much-needed new treatments.'

MEND is open to applications from scientists around the globe, and researchers will be encouraged to collaborate on projects, sharing knowledge and resources to speed up progress. It is hoped that the scheme will also help answer fundamental questions about the similarities and differences between different diseases, such as whether the underlying mechanisms that cause cell death differ from one disease to another, and why each disease affects different types.

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