Universiteit Leiden

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ZonMw grant for major research into causes of dementia

The Mechanisms Of DEMentia (MODEM) research project has received a €5,9m grant from ZonMw. Within this collaboration, several parties, including the Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC), will conduct research into the causes of dementia.

The causes of dementia are still largely unknown, and there are no effective treatments yet. A better understanding of the disease mechanisms, such as the functioning of blood vessels and the blood-brain barrier, will tell us more about how dementia develops and how to protect against it. This will also provide opportunities to develop new therapies.

Role of neurovascular function in dementia

Part of the MODEM study will take place in Leiden and €600,000 has been made available for this. Within the LUMC, the Radiology (Louise van der Weerd and Thijs van Osch) and Neurology (Marieke Wermer) departments are investigating the role of neurovascular function in dementia, particularly in cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA). CAA is a condition in which the small and medium-sized blood vessels in the brain become damaged. An MRI is being used to see whether the health of the blood-brain barrier can be imaged without the need for a contrast medium.

The researchers are also looking at how other measures of vascular bed health can be used earlier in clinical practice. ‘At the LUMC, we have unique data thanks to our long-term collaboration with CAA patients, in both a hereditary (D-CAA) and non-hereditary form. By combining patient data with that of other patient groups, we hope to develop new biomarkers (a tool used to measure whether and how sick someone is, ed.) for vascular function. We really need these kinds of readout measurements to test new therapies for effectiveness,’ say the researchers.

Research into causes of dementia

MODEM is one of the research consortia (in Dutch) to have been awarded funding within ZonMw’s Dementia Research Programme (in Dutch) and includes fundamental research into disease mechanisms underlying conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia and vascular dementia.

The MODEM consortium is led by Professor of Neurobiology Guus Smit (VU Amsterdam). Neuroscientists from the LUMC, Amsterdam UMC, UMC Utrecht, Radboud UMC and Maastricht UMC are collaborating with healthcare providers and industry. This will also ensure that new knowledge quickly reaches the workplace and companies. The four awarded consortia will start work before the end of the year.

National dementia strategy

The Dementia Research Programme is part of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport’s National Dementia Strategy 2021-2030 (in Dutch). This gives shape to an important part of the Ministry’s mission IV: by 2030, the quality of life of people with dementia will have increased by 25 per cent. To this end, a coalition of public and private partners have drawn up the Knowledge and Innovation Agenda 2020-2023 (in Dutch), with the Life Sciences & Health (LSH) Top Sector.

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