Helping to beat the cruelest disease

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VOLUNTEERS from St Helens are being sought for a cutting edge worldwide medical trial which could slow the progress of a form of Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Ashley Baldwin, from Rainhill, hopes to recruit local 50 to 85-year-olds who have noticed a gradual decline in memory in the last 12 months - which is worse than that expected from the normal ageing process alone.

As a result of its expertise in medical research, the local 5 Borough’s Partnership was chosen as the only NHS Trust in the north of England to undertake the international SCarlet RoAD study.

The two-and-a-half-year trial, in which participants must attend a clinic at least once a month, will test the long-term impact of a new vaccine on prodromal Alzheimer’s - which typically hinders a person’s ability to recall incidents from the recent past.

Dr Baldwin told the Reporter: “We’re getting better at diagnosing prodromal Alzheimer’s and the key is to catch it early to try to slow the condition down. It doesn’t just affect memory, it affects judgement, personality and behaviour too.

“We don’t want to scare anyone. But if memory loss has become a persistent problem for you then there is a chance it could be prodromal Alzheimer’s. We have a sequence of psychological screening tests which can determine whether someone has the condition or not.

“Hundreds of people in St Helens will have Alzheimer’s disease, but a third of them probably haven’t even had it diagnosed.”

In the past, people with prodromal Alzheimer’s would have been considered to be showing symptoms of old age. But it is now thought that people with the condition may be more likely to develop dementia.

The SCarlet RoAD study is also taking place in another 100 centres in 15 other countries.

Dr Baldwin, the local trial’s principal investigator, added: “It’s exciting for us to have been chosen for this study. Research is extremely important in the development of new treatments for diseases, and ultimately these new treatments could be taken on by the NHS.

“The vaccine is cutting edge. It’s designed to remove a protein from the brain which is seen as responsible for the development of prodromal Alzheimer’s disease.

“A similar version is used for people with Alzheimer’s further down the line, but, at that stage, all it won’t make you better - it will just stop you getting worse. Our hope is that, through early diagnosis, we can slow the condition down.”

Anyone who thinks they may be eligible to participate, or who knows someone who may be eligible, can find out more online at: www.scarletroadstudy.com or call 0808 189 1497.