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Vivien Pomfrey
BSc (Hons) (Open)
DipNatSci (Open)
MSc (Science) (Open)

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The value of imaging in dementia research

Dementia affects at least 5% of people over 65 in the UK and USA, and incidence is increasing.

In diagnosing dementia type, two studies found concordances of just 3% and 29% respectively for the diagnosis, via a range of protocols, of vascular dementia (VaD), generally considered to be one of the two commonest types, the other being Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Millions of dollars are spent annually on dementia research in the USA alone, but much of this involves often-crude animal models.  In vitro models cannot represent the whole person or whole brain, and clinical trials still rely largely on clinical diagnostic protocols for selecting and classifying participants and analysing outcomes.

Thus it is perhaps unsurprising that progress in finding causes and treatments is slow.  The main current treatments for AD are acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors, which can only provide modest, short-term symptomatic relief and do not work for all AD patients.

This review examines the potential of the medical imaging of normal and diseased human brains in vivo to provide insights into the development and progression of these devastating and costly diseases.

Imaging has great potential to enhance our understanding of the development and progression of disease and response to treatment in dementia research, and is a promising candidate to replace post-mortem examination as a gold standard for dementia diagnosis.

Imaging may help us to complete the picture of dementia causation by drawing together the pathological strands detectable by the various modalities, enabling prevention and treatment at an early stage and, it is hoped, averting a dementia epidemic threatened by demographic changes and the possible exacerbating contribution of environmental pollution.

Click here to see full article [pdf document, 34 pages approximately 1 Mb]


Current cancer drug development focuses largely on 'rational drug design'.  Unfortunately, functional groups on molecules often do not behave as predicted, rendering the compounds ineffective and/or toxic, with some even causing cancer.  Other cancer researchers continue to study the roles of individual endogenous molecules, enzymes, genes and signalling pathways in carcinogenesis.

Most cancers are lifestyle-related, and an alternative approach to the 'rational drug design' route is to study epidemiological data on cancer incidence and mortality, and try to identify correlations such as diet and other environmental factors.  This approach has led to the discovery of natural compounds which show great promise as preventative, and potentially curative, agents for human cancers.

This review examines research on such a compound: genistein, focusing mainly on in vitro and ex vivo findings.

The epidemiological evidence for soya-related anti-carcinogenic properties is strong.  Evidence for genistein or soya causing harm is scarcer and weaker than evidence for anticarcinogenicity.

It remains to be seen whether genistein and/or phytoestrogens, singly or in combination, can be therapeutic as well as prophylactic for cancer.  If clinical findings are positive, the benefits to patients will be matched by savings in healthcare costs.

Compared to the enormous sums spent developing synthetic anti-cancer drugs, the source of genistein - soya - is extremely cheap.

Click here to see full article [pdf document, 32 pages approximately 1.2 Mb]




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