‘Alzheimer’s – we can cure it’ with Dr Sam Cohen

Monday 3 April 2017

It is 116 years since Alzheimer’s disease was identified, yet it remains one of the biggest medical and social challenges of our generation and we have done little to address it.

Speaking to an audience at The Grammar School at Leeds (GSAL), researcher Dr Sam Cohen explained the background to this lack of progress in tackling Alzheimer’s and outlined the work that he and a team of researchers are doing at Cambridge University.

Dr Sam Cohen attended Leeds Grammar School for 11 years, leaving for university in 2005. He has a degree in physics and a PhD in biophysical chemistry from the University of Cambridge, and is now a research fellow at St John’s College, Cambridge. He is a lead author of a study published in 2015 in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, which identifies a crucial molecule that could slow the accumulation of the protein tangles in the brain that cause Alzheimer’s disease.

While this research is unlikely to lead directly to drug development it can be used as a starting point for investigating possible therapies, which is critical in tackling a disease that affects over 800,000 people in the UK, a number growing rapidly as our population ages, as well as the many who care for them. However Dr Cohen made the point strongly that unless research into Alzheimer’s is prioritised like it is for diseases such as cancer, progress will stall.

He said: “Confusing Alzheimer’s with ageing has cost us decades of research time. Now research like this shows that Alzheimer’s disease is something we can treat and cure, I think there’s finally some hope. But we need help.

“Alzheimer’s patients can’t speak up. Their carers are too worn out to advocate for change. I believe it really is down to us. Together we have to speak up for them and together I’m confident we can find a cure.”

The talk was the seventh in GSAL’s Mark Bailey lecture series, which was established as an annual public lecture in honour of the former head of Leeds Grammar School and GSAL.

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