Dementia is not a normal part of growing old, scientists have insisted as they step up calls for more investment in research.
Experts claim they are close to developing effective treatments for the degenerative conditions that will soon affect a million people in Britain.
They want to dismiss the idea that diseases such as Alzheimer’s, which lead to memory loss and a gradual decline in capabilities, are an inevitable part of the ageing process that await us all.
But they say that dementia remains the “poor relation” to cancer and heart disease in terms of research funding, and so more people will suffer unnecessarily unless Government, private companies and the public increase investment.
Professor Julie Williams, a researcher at Cardiff University who has discovered genes linked to Alzheimer’s disease, said: “We’re on the verge of a profound understanding of dementia and one that could lead us to the treatments we need, but we need help to get there.
“Investing in dementia research now will pay dividends, heading off the forecast explosion in numbers living with the condition and the crippling economic costs that come alongside.”
Professor Kevin Morgan, of the University of Nottingham, who is Scientific Adviser for Alzheimer's Research UK, added: “Dementia is not a normal part of ageing – it is caused by brain diseases that we can beat, but we need more investment in the research that will give us answers.”
As The Daily Telegraph disclosed, Alzheimer's Research UK has launched a new drive to increase funding to improve diagnosis and treatment of dementia.
There are fears that without the same “aggressive” research as was used to target HIV in the 1980s, Britain faces a “dementia catastrophe” that will cost the economy billions and ruin thousands of lives.
Julian Huppert, the MP for Cambridge who hosted the charity’s re-launch in Westminster, said: “The impact of dementia is devastating, affecting not just the individual and the people around them, but costing the UK economy over £23 billion a year.”