2018 was an eventful year for PREVENT dementia with the study reaching a series of milestones. Firstly, back in January we saw the last participants at our research site in London for their 2 year follow-up visits. This was a significant event for the study as it meant analyses could begin which would compare participant data collected at baseline to the follow-up data collected two years later. We are busy working on these analyses now and hope to share some of these results during this New Year.
April then brought the close of recruitment at our Oxford site after completing baseline assessments for 68 participants. As one door closed another opened with our Dublin site joining the study. The Dublin team received overwhelming interest in the project and have been working hard to welcome many new volunteers into PREVENT. They aim to have recruited 100 participants into the study by June this year. In November our Cambridge site also closed for recruitment having recruited 100 participants.
At the end of 2018 we had recruited an incredible 519 participants into the PREVENT Dementia Programme! Having over 500 people involved in the study feels like such an incredible achievement and we are hugely grateful to each and every participant and study team member who has enabled this to happen.
In December we held our annual conference in London. We were delighted to be joined by so many interested PREVENT participants and supporters. A fantastic line-up of speakers gave us a chance to reflect on the progress the study has made so far as well as a glimpse at some of the exciting new directions the project is headed. Among these are a number of innovative sub-studies that continue to run in parallel with the main study visits. From powerful new ways to image the health of the eye and specific proteins in the brain, assessing changes in the way we use language and using the latest technology to easily and accurately measure skills of thinking and navigation. All these fascinating projects benefit greatly from the detailed core data collected within the main study and from the amazing dedication and willingness of PREVENT participants to get involved!
As well as directly participating in additional research projects, this year saw another important step to help PREVENT participants’ data go even further. Information collected for the study will now be available to researchers around the world as part of the Global Alzheimer’s Association Interactive Network (GAAIN). This resource allows researchers to share data from multiple individual studies to increase the power of their analysis. We are thrilled that through our TriBeKa collaboration, along with the ALFA study, PREVENT data is contributing to this cooperative global effort to advance research into the causes, prevention and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.
Throughout 2018 we hosted a wide range of public engagement events. We were thrilled to be nominated as charity of the year by the University of Edinburgh Estates department who carried out several amazing fundraising events throughout the year. A particular highlight for us was the 5 a side football tournament which featured an enthusiastic, if ultimately unsuccessful, Centre for Dementia Prevention team! We also hosted our first concert in collaboration with the charity Playlist for Life. A wonderful collection of Scottish musical stars made for a memorable evening and we hope this is something we can make a regular event.
In autumn the team embarked on a tour of the West coast of Scotland hosting evening talks in several small community venues. The discussions aimed to raise awareness of brain health and dementia prevention in local populations who may conventionally have more limited access to this information. The tour was such a success we hope to repeat this again in 2019, visiting more seldom served locations across Scotland.
Not limited only to Scotland, some of the most exciting developments for PREVENT have come from the increasing global reach of the programme. For the past year we have been working with the Bangalore Institute of Neurosciences on the translation and cultural adaptation of the COGNITO neurological battery, used in PREVENT, for three Indian languages and for a population which is largely illiterate. The Institute are undertaking a long term study which shares many measures in common with PREVENT including the brain scanning procedures and will now incorporate COGNITO therefore allowing us to share data. We presented a first joint poster at a large conference in Bangalore in December and are now planning a first publication looking at cross cultural differences in the impact of fasting blood sugar levels on cognitive performance.
We have also established solid collaborations with researchers at the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute who are leading the Global Dementia Prevention Programme (GloDePP) initiative which focuses particularly on research into preventative measures in low and middle income countries. PREVENT Data and Research Scientist Dr. Sammy Danso plays a key role in GloDePP and recently Sammy and his team travelled to China to visit colleagues who are currently establishing a dementia study in Beijing.
We are also exploring opportunities to further extend PREVENT’s global influence to Latin America (Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina) and set up studies harmonised with PREVENT with the aim of investigating dementia risk factors and the capacity for individuals in these contexts to adopt and engage in risk modifying interventions. Alongside this, in June Prof Craig Ritchie attended a conference in Sydney presenting his prevention research and highlighted the work being done in PREVENT. The study was also well represented at the large Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Chicago in July. Finally, in October the team also traveled to China to meet with colleagues who we hope we will work with for many years developing new research which will allow PREVENT to become a truly global project.
These collaborations will continue to strengthen moving into 2019 meaning this could possibly be the biggest year yet for the PREVENT Dementia Programme! Recruitment to the study will close this year allowing our study statisticians to start analysing the data collected across all 5 of our research centres. Follow-up visits will also start at our centres in Oxford and Cambridge and continue at our centre in Edinburgh and by 2020 we will have collected follow-up data from 3 of our research sites. We are also finalising plans for an epic fundraising challenge, look out for an announcement coming soon!
We owe a huge debt to everyone who has dedicated so much to our research throughout 2018. We’re really excited for reaching our next milestones in 2019 and looking forward to seeing what else the year has in store for PREVENT Dementia.