Dementia is a most horrendous condition that robs sufferers of their memories, their relationships and their clarity. But this fight that we have, as a species, been losing until now, may just have won its first tiny victory.
It’s old age, it’s just bad luck, it’s something that will happen no matter what. We’ve prepared ourselves for the likelihood of dementia since we were far younger because it’s a condition that has resisted all attempts to curtail it so far. But, we were heartened by news reported this month that researchers may have discovered a small but potentially important piece in the complex puzzle that may lead to a way of minimising the impact dementia has on so many lives.
MAPKAPK5 may seem like a random string of letters and numbers but it’s the designation given to a very important protein, one of over a thousand that scientists have been analysing, for ten years, in the blood of more than 200 twins who volunteered for this study. This protein’s job is to relay chemical messages in the body and seems to be consistently low in those whose brain functions have declined over time.
Now, it should be stressed that this is early days, and scientists don’t really know why less of this protein affects the brain in the way it’s suspected it does, but with some further study it may be possible to use this as a test to identify more clearly who may be a dementia sufferer in the future. Because dementia is often a slow and progressive condition people could go for years without the knowledge that irreparable damage was going on inside their brains. Early identification may give scientists the advantage when looking to slow or even reverse the currently unstoppable advance of the disease.
With dementia cases expected to triple by 2050 it’s all the more important for something to be done to protect the memories and minds of future potential sufferers now. We hope that progress is swift and look forward to a time when everyone, of a certain age, can be screened and preventative measures initiated so we can win this fight once and for all.