Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia; it’s a progressive disease with symptoms worsening over a number of years [1].

Those with Alzheimer’s have been found to have abnormal amounts of a chemical called acetylcholine in the brain along with fibres and protein. While it is not known what causes this process to start the effects are understood to reduce the effectiveness of healthy neurons eventually resulting in their destruction [2].

Dementia affects 750,000 in the UK, of these 465,000 have Alzheimer’s disease. The UK has an aging population and, unfortunately, it has been predicted that dementia cases will rise to 940,000 by 2012 and 1.7 million by 2051 [3].

The cost of Alzheimer’s in the UK is currently £20 billion per year. It has also been predicted that by 2026 the cost of dementia in England alone could be £34.8 billion [3].

Alzheimer’s Disease Facts

  • Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of death in England & Wales (11.6%)
  • It is estimated that 46.8 million people have dementia worldwide [4]
  • It is estimated that 131.5 million people will have dementia by 2050 [4]
  • Dementia affects 1 in 20 people over the age of 65 [4]
  • Dementia affects 1 in 5 people over the age of 80 [4]
  • Alzheimer’s accounts for 50-60% of dementia cases [4]
  • 850,000 people in the UK have dementia [5]
  • 2 million people are predicted to have dementia by 2051 in the UK [5]
  • Someone develops dementia every 3 minutes [5]
  • In 2012/2013 the UK spent £502.8 million on cancer research vs £73.8 million on dementia research [5]
  • 7 million people will develop dementia around the world each year [5]

Alzheimer’s Disease, Cord Blood and Stem Cells

There are currently 17 clinical trials investigating the application of stem cells in Alzheimer’s disease[6].

Studies using mice have shown some promise using stem cells to treat Alzheimer’s. One study found that the mice which had received human umbilical cord blood showed improved cognitive capacities, particularly learning, memory and motor function. The team conducting the study found that monocytes (a type of white blood cell) derived from human umbilical cord blood consumed and cleared the plaque fragments responsible for AD [7].

Scientists in Japan are treating the condition in trial stages by transplanting mesenchymal stem cells from patients’ fat tissue to the blood stream. Results so far offer hope that a cure could be found in the next few decades.

Human trials are currently underway to determine the safety and effectiveness of cord blood stem cells in Alzheimer’s. A combined phase 1/2a trial (NCT02054208) is expected to conclude in December 2015 [8].

Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) are playing a crucial role in the study of Alzheimer’s disease. Taking skin cells from patients with Alzheimer’s scientists are able to reprogramme the cells to create neurons. These neurons show some of the key features of Alzheimer’s and could enable scientists to better understand how and why the brain produces the plaques and tangles that cause the disease. This in turn can lead to the development of effective therapies being developed [9].




The information contained in this article is for information purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of a medical expert. If you have any concerns about your health we urge you to discuss them with your doctor.


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